The beauty of the Internet means there is the potential of a huge audience and of course, if a photo is uploaded and shared, it can be on there forever. Pretty scary thought that something stupid you did at 14 can still potentially affect your adult life.
This is not the end of the world. It just needs some thought on how you can minimise the effect of your mistake.
There is a big difference between worrying and understanding how far the image may have gone beyond your control. It depends how the image was published; if you sent it directly to someone’s mobile and then had second thoughts, you need to have an honest conversation with them as soon as possible to get them to delete it.
Posting directly to social networks makes it harder to regain that control. Networks like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube or Instagram are designed to make publishing and sharing quick; the software makes those connections for you… and that’s the trouble. It’s hard to know where the image has gone and who has got it. It can very quickly leave your social circle and spread to others.
What is the first thing I should do?
It might seem like the end of the world but try not to panic! Take a deep breath and give yourself a chance to think about how this might affect you.
First off, are you OK? Do you need support? If you do, find the best person to support you right now… friends, family, school? You choose.
Sometimes that first step of asking for help is a difficult one. But you have to be honest with yourself. Real friends and professionals trying to help are only able to do so when they know all the facts and how you feel about it. If you know of a friend who is trying to deal with this maybe you could show them this!
If you decide you need to do something, don’t wait. The quicker you deal with it the better chance there is of managing the spread.
Who can help me?
CEOP is the Child Exploitation Online Protection centre and was set up by the Government in 2006 to help protect children online across the UK from online predators. As well as helping UK police forces to bring these people to justice, CEOP can help provide advice to you and your parents when something like this happens. You can report issues here… or by going to the CEOP website. There is also a great film about Sexting called ‘Exposed’.
Local police could possibly be involved if it involves the well-being of other pupils, but could also offer effective support and counselling.
It may be your worst nightmare thinking of telling your parents you shared intimate pictures, and yes, they may kick off at first but they need to know; how are they going to support you if they don’t know?
Use your discretion, if you don’t think the pictures will go viral, then don’t upset them for no reason. If you feel there is a risk, or if your picture has already been shared, then you need them on board. Yes, they will probably be very upset and disappointed, but they’ll get over it!
And will probably respect you more for being upfront about it…
Is this going to affect things for me in the future?
Hopefully in most cases your continuing digital life will ‘bury’ your mistakes as time goes on. There is however no guarantee that the pictures will not be seen by others later. Your reputation could be affected if future employers, college, or sixth-form friends see this. Being honest and open and admitting a mistake is the best approach, as it will be with any future relationships.
© SWGfL 2012. Visit www.swgfl.org.uk/sextinghelp for more information.