Sexting and child pornography

Sexting and child pornography

Think carefully about what can happen if you take or send pictures of your friends on your mobile phone, especially if they are not fully dressed, even if they agree. You could be charged by police for committing a criminal offence.

It may seem like harmless fun, but be careful – if you send sexual images electronically or agree to other people taking them of you, they can become part of your ‘digital footprint’, which may last forever. It could damage your future career prospects or relationships or lead to criminal charges.

Sexting

‘Sexting’ is distributing an intimate image of a person (over 18 years) to others without their consent and the distribution of the image is contrary to community standards of acceptable conduct. This might include nude, sexual or indecent photos using a computer, mobile phone or other electronic device.

Sexting is a crime if you intentionally distribute an intimate image of a person under 18 to others, even if they agree to the sext message being sent. You could also be charged by police with child pornography offences.

Penalty

The maximum penalty for this offence is two years jail.

Threatening to send a sext message

Threatening to send an intimate image of a person to others if the person believes that you will carry out the threat may also be a criminal offence.

Penalty

The maximum penalty for this offence is one year in jail.

Victorian child pornography law

Under Victorian law you could be charged with possessing child pornography if you have a film, photograph, publication or computer game that describes or depicts a person who is or appears to be under 18:

  • engaging in a sexual activity
  • or depicted in an indecent sexual manner or context.

You could also be charged with producing child pornography if you print a publication, make a film, take a photograph, or create a computer game that shows a person under 18 (or appears to be under 18):

  • engaging in a sexual activity; or
  • depicted in an indecent sexual manner or context.

Exceptions to child pornography offences

You cannot be prosecuted for child pornography offences if you take or store indecent images of yourself.

It is also not a child pornography offence if you are under 18 years old and:

  • no person in the photo is more than two years younger than you
  • the photo does not show an act that is serious criminal offence.

Penalty

The maximum penalty for:

  • possessing child pornography is 5 years in jail
  • producing child pornography is 10 years in jail.

Commonwealth child pornography law

Under Commonwealth law you could be charged with child pornography offences if you take, send, receive, make available, possess or store sexual or intimate photos of someone who is under 18 or who looks or represents someone under 18. Under these law, there are serious consequences if you get caught.

If you are found guilty

People found guilty of sexting or child pornography offences can get a criminal record as well as criminal penalties. They can also be stopped from working or volunteering with children, for example, as a teacher or sports coach.

If you are over 18 when the offence is committed you must be registered as a sex offender and follow reporting obligations for between eight years and the rest of your life, depending on the offence.

If you are under 18 at the time of the offence, you may be registered as a sex offender.

Get help

Find out how you can get help with sex and the law.

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