Using social media

Social media can be used for socialising, communicating and for business. It can be a good way to interact with other people, but it is important to use it in a way that does not cause  problems for you or anyone else. 

Depending on what is posted or sent with the use of a phone or internet connection, you might be the victim of cyber bullying. Or you might be cyber bullying someone else. Sexting and cyber bullying can both be crimes.

Find out:

  • what you should think about before you post or send information or photos online
  • about possible consequences of misusing social media, and
  • what you can do if you are the victim of image-based abuse.

Things to think about before you post online

Think carefully about what could happen if you take or send pictures of your friends on your mobile phone, especially if they are not fully dressed. You could be charged by police for committing a criminal offence, even if the people in the photo knew what you were doing. The images may last forever and damage people's job prospects or relationships.

Once an image is shared it can be in many places you didn't even think about. Remember, other people can copy what you post and show or send it to people you don't know, who could then send it out to even more people. 

Information, videos and photos can be sent to other people without your knowledge or permission by social media, text or email. Australian privacy laws that protect the handling and disclosure of information by governments and companies don't apply to your friends.

Some tweets and blogs have ended up in legal action for defamation

Can I get into trouble with the police for sexting or what I post on social media?

If you post something that is threatening or abusive to a person or group, it may be a criminal offence. In some cases it may be criminal defamation. It may also be bullying.  

If you post something that is threatening or abusive, it may be a criminal offence or criminal defamation. It may also be bullying.  

Cyber bullying is any form of bullying that occurs online or with the use of a phone. It is against the law to use a phone or internet service to menace, harass or offend someone else. Cyber bullying that involves sharing or threatening to share intimate images of someone else is very serious.

Sexting occurs when you send nude, sexual or indecent photos (or 'selfies') or images or messages using a computer, mobile phone or other mobile device. Sexting may be a criminal offence. If the photo, video or text involves a young person who is, or looks like they are, under the age of 18 (including yourself), it might be child abuse material.

If you create that material, send it to someone else, or have it on your mobile phone or computer even if the young person consented you could be breaking the law and risk being sent to prison.

If you are charged and convicted of an offence involving a child, you could become a 'reportable offender' and placed on the Community Protection Offender Register (often referred to as the Sex Offender Register). 

You should also be careful about sharing sexually explicit material through your phone or the internet even if the other person was a consenting adult.     

What if someone takes or shares a sexy picture of me without my permission?

If someone takes sexually explicit pictures of you without your consent, it may be a criminal offence. The offence will be more serious if you are under the age of 18 (regardless of whether you gave permission). If you think a sexting offence has been committed, contact your local police. 

You may have agreed to your photos being taken, or even willingly shared them with another person (such as your partner). But that does not mean you wanted them shared or shown to other people without your permission. If someone has distributed sexy pictures of you without your consent, this may be an example of image-based abuse.

Reviewed: 13 December 2022


The information displayed on this page is provided for information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. If you have a legal problem, you should see a lawyer. Legal Aid Western Australia aims to provide information that is accurate, however does not accept responsibility for any errors or omissions in the information provided on this page or incorporated into it by reference.