What does the law say?
Sending a selfie is a pretty common way to communicate with your friends, but if the picture you send shows anyone under 18 who is nude, semi-nude, or in a sexy pose, then you are committing a crime. It's illegal to take, send, receive or store a sexy picture of a young person who is under 18. Under the law, these images are considered child pornography and there are serious consequences if you get caught.
People found guilty of sexual offences or child pornography can get serious penalties and are stopped from working or volunteering with children. Their details can also be permanently recorded on a register of sex offenders.
There is no safe way to send a sexy picture. You can't control who sees a photo of you once you have sent it by text, email or posted it online. The best way to stay safe is:
- don't take, send or store a sexy photo or video of anyone under 18
- if you receive a sexy picture of someone who you know is under 18 or who looks under 18, don't share it and delete it immediately
- if you're worried about a picture that's already out there, talk to an adult you trust.
But what if the person in the picture agrees?
You might think that a picture you have is OK, because the person in it agreed to have their photo taken or sent it to you in the first place. But the law doesn't distinguish between photos that young people take of their friends or partners, and other types of child pornography. Any sexy image of a person under 18 could be considered child pornography by a court.
This means that you can't take, send or store a sexy picture of yourself if you're under 18, even if you decide you want to, and even if you're old enough to consent (agree) to other sexual activity. If you're within the age of consent in your state, it is legally OK for you to have sex, as long as both partners freely agree and are within the age of consent. But if one of you is under 18, you can't film or photograph yourselves with your clothes off or doing anything sexy.
For further information on consent see Sex and consent.
What can I say if someone asks me for a picture?
The law says you have the right to say "no" to any type of sexual activity that you don't want to do, including sending a sexy picture. A person who cares about you will respect your decision, even if they're disappointed. If you're worried, or if you're being pressured, talk to an adult you can trust.
I'm worried about a picture that's already out there
If you've already sent a picture that you're worried about, don't panic. Delete the picture from your own phone and computer and ask the person who received it to delete it from their phone or computer. Ask them not to send it on to anyone else. If you're worried that they didn't delete it, or if you find out that they have sent it to someone else, get help from an adult you trust.
Where can I get help?
- For more information about using social media and problems that may happen online see Social media - be careful what you say or send!
- For information about your rights as a young person see Rights for young people.
- Call the Legal Aid WA InfoLine on 1300 650 579 for free general information and referral over the phone that can help you with your legal problems.
- The Kids Helpline provides a free, private and confidential telephone and online counselling service for young people aged between 5 and 25. They can be contacted on 1800 551 800 or via their website.
- Headspace offers free or low cost services for young people aged 12 to 25 and can help you access the right health service for your needs. Headspace has offices in Fremantle, Albany, Broome, Osborne Park, Bunbury and Midland. Have a look at their website for further information about how they can help you.
- Watch the Cybersmart Tagged video and have a look at the factsheets on the Cybersmart website for information about what you do online today could tag you for life.
Last reviewed: 22/11/2013