Keeping children safe
In this section
Some WA stats
A recent survey of Year 10 to Year 12 Western Australian students10 found that in the previous 2 months:
Sexting and the law
Sexting is a crime if it involves a person under the age of 18 (or someone who appears to be under the age of 18). It is also a crime when it involves harassing people of any age.
When sexting involves someone under 18, it can be considered creating, distributing or possessing child abuse material (sometimes referred to as 'child pornography'). A picture is considered to be child pornography if it is offensive to the average person.26
Existing laws are not designed to ‘catch out’ young people sharing consensual sexts with their partners; they are designed to protect children from exploitation.
However, even if a young person under the age of 18 sends their own picture to their partner or someone else who says it’s OK, they can still be charged under current Australian Commonwealth laws.
Consent applies to ‘sexting’ too.
If you consent to sexting with someone, it doesn’t mean you consent to that image being shared with anyone else.
WA’s intimate image laws came into effect in 2019.
These laws make it an offence to distribute (or threaten to distribute) an intimate image of a person without their consent.
Courts can also issue a ‘take down’ order to remove images online.
For more information, Youth Law Australia uses straightforward language and scenarios to explain the laws in each state. It also offers free, confidential legal information and help for people under 25.
An intimate image is any picture, photo or video that shows a person in a private situation.
This may include someone who is:
- partially naked
- in their underwear
- undressing, bathing, toileting
- engaging in a sexual act
- posing in a sexual way.
When it comes to the intimate image laws it includes real photos, photo-shopped pictures, videos, stories, drawings and even cartoons.
It does not include an image taken in public, such as a photo of someone at the beach in their bathers, or of a model on a catwalk.
A person who distributes an intimate image in circumstances that a reasonable person would consider socially acceptable is unlikely to be charged under these new laws. For example, taking a picture of your child in the bath and sharing it with family members.
What you can do to help
- Teach your kids about consent and image sharing right from the start.
- Got a photo of their first day at school?
Ask their permission before you post it online.
Have a conversation about it, and how, you can share their picture with others.
- Talk with your kids about when it is OK to share someone’s picture – and when it is not.
- If your child is LGBTI (and they haven’t come out to everyone), they may be at risk from someone outing them by sharing their image or information online.
Let your child know that they will always have your support.
- Remind them of the basics of respectful relationships.
Pressure from a partner to share an intimate image, or pressuring someone to send an image, is not respectful.
- Make sure you include both sons and daughters in discussions about respecting other people’s boundaries.
- Make sure they understand that it is illegal in Australia to send a nude photo or sexts (of themselves or of someone else) if they are under the age of 18.
- Let your teenager know that they can always come to you if they are worried about images they have sent.
- Talk about who else they could go to instead of you, such as a school counsellor or Kids Helpline.
- Show your teenager how to get online images removed by reporting them on esafety.gov.au.
There are a number of things to try to stop images being sent around:
- social media apps like Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat have ‘reporting’ and ‘blocking’ functions
- esafety.gov.au provides help on cyberbullying and getting photos removed
- privacy settings can be set to allow users to review photo tags before they appear on their own or their friends’ newsfeeds.
Considerations for young people before sexting
You may like to share this list of considerations with your child.
Things for me to consider before sexting• Do I really want to do this?
• Does the person receiving the sext really want it?
• Do I trust the receiver/s?
• Is it legal? (e.g. sexting/nudes)
• Do I have consent to share this image with anyone else?
• Am I being repeatedly asked and pressured to send pics?
• Or am I putting pressure on someone and making them feel uncomfortable to send a pic?
• Am I doing it to ‘belong'?
• Or is it something I personally want to do?
• Why am I sending this?
• Am I hoping that if I send the pic that I’ll be liked?
• What might happen if I send and image and it gets shared with others? How will I feel? What would I do?
• Am I identifiable in this picture? (Can you see my face? Tattoos? Birthmarks? Background? Jewellery? Uniform?)
• How will I feel about this decision tomorrow?
Sexting can also be a form of harassment, for example:
- if someone keeps bothering you with requests for a naked picture
- if someone sends you a naked picture you don’t want
- if someone threatens to send a naked picture of you to other people.
Sexting that involves harassment can be considered a menacing, harassing or offensive use of the internet or a mobile phone.
This is a crime that can be reported to the police.