How Sexting Can Turn into Bullying — And What You Can Do to Protect Yourself

sexting

“It’s just one picture.”
“But I really trust them.”
“I made sure they deleted it!”

There are plenty of excuses that teens make when they engage in sexting, which might feel legit at the time. But sexting can set you up for serious and dangerous consequences, including bullying.

Sexting — a combo of the words “sex” and “texting” — is when someone sends sexually explicit photos, videos, or messages electronically. This can be done through text, but it can also be done through social media, like Snapchat, Instagram, or Twitter.

Teen Sexting in the US

Around 20% of teens admit to sexting — even though the risks are well-known. Unfortunately, each one of these teens also runs the risk of the situation spiraling out of control.

Here’s a look at how sexting can turn dangerous and what you can do to protect yourself.

When Sexting Turns Into Bullying

What happens on the internet stays on the internet — and that’s not always a good thing. Once you hit “send” on that message, it enters cyberspace, where it’s no longer in your control.

For instance, messages can be forwarded to unintended recipients. Even if you really trust the person you send it to, they might forward the photo to friends who they trust, who forward it to people they trust. Before you know it, your photo lives on dozens of phones.

Messages can also be intercepted by mistake, like if you accidentally send them to the wrong person or someone else is using the phone of the person you send them to.

Finally, messages can be forward in order to harm you — a nasty form of cyberbullying. Breakups, fights, and hard feelings can lead someone who you once trusted to put your private photo in the hands of others.

Need Help With Bullying?

If you ever need help with bullying, contact a trusted adult, your pediatrician, or the STOMP Out Bullying HelpChat Line.

There’s no rewind button when it comes to sexting. And there’s no true delete button on the internet. Once you send a photo that’s meant to be private, it can become not-so-private very quickly.

If a photo from sexting gets leaked, it could lead to major consequences, including:

  • Embarrassment among peers and adults
  • Losing your spot on clubs and sport teams
  • Trouble in school, including getting expelled or not getting into college
  • Problems getting a job
  • Trouble with the law, including jail or prison time, hefty fines, and a tarnished record

This includes if you’re forwarding a message you received. This is not just a form of bullying, it can hold the very same consequences as if you created the message yourself.

This includes if you’re forwarding a message you received. This is not just a form of bullying, it can hold the very same consequences as if you created the message yourself.

How to Protect Yourself From Sexting-Related Bullying

The consequences of sexting are undeniable, and the most effective way to avoid them is not to engage in sexting in any form.

What does this mean? Never send pictures, videos, or messages that you wouldn’t want anyone else to see, including classmates, teachers, family, college admissions staff, and even potential employers.

If you ever receive a sexual image of someone else, tell a trusted adult — and never share it with friends. Not only is this unkind, but it can also get you in trouble with the law.

Even if you see your peers engaging in sexting, stand strong. The public humiliation and other serious consequences are not worth getting involved in sexting.


Do you have questions about healthy relationships, including questions about sex? Your pediatrician is here to help.


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