As children grow and develop, they become more interested in relationships and sex. One way they do this is through sexting. Sexting is the sharing and receiving of sexually explicit messages and nude or partially nude images via cellphone. Sexts may be sent as regular text messages or through apps, like Snapchat, and WhatsApp. Teens may sext for a variety of reasons. They may be trying to establish intimacy with a boyfriend or girlfriend, impress a crush, or be funny. Others may feel pressured into sexting by boyfriends or girlfriends who may threaten to break up with them if they don't send a picture.
Teens may not believe or be able to foresee a situation in which the person they send a sext to chooses to share that image with others. However, it does happen and the consequences can be academically, socially, and emotionally devastating.
Teens that sext may get in trouble at school, be bullied or harassed, or, in extreme cases, get in legal trouble.
Additionally, those who engage in sexting may also become victims of sextortion. Sextortion is a type of blackmail used by offenders to acquire additional sexual content from the child, coerce them into engaging in sexual activity, or to obtain money from the child. NCMEC analyses have found that children who are victims of sextortion are often targeted and blackmailed by an individual they met online who had obtained the initial sexual image from the child through deceit, coercion, or another method.
To learn more about sextortion, visit NCMEC’s Sextortion page, or download the report.