‘Sexting’ Making, possessing or distributing an indecent image of a child is a crime!
Sexting has been defined as “the creating, sharing, and forwarding of sexually suggestive nude, or nearly nude images” (Lenhart, 2009). In simple terms, taking a sexually explicit photograph and texting (sharing) it via your mobile phone to others.
This sexually explicit content can easily be distributed between people, through the use of smartphones, the Internet, and through online social networking sites. Recent studies claim that up to 39% of teens and 59% of young adults have sexted at least once.
Whilst adults risk embarrassment if a photo they have sent to another adult is posted or shared with a wider audience the implications for children are much greater. Children and young people need to understand the dangers that sexting can pose. Once an image has been sent it is out of their control and may be shared on and offline with other people. They will have no control over who sees it and what they choose to do with it.
In the UK a child is a person under the age of 18. Sexting can lead to a range of problems for a child; cyberbullying; grooming and an enhanced level stranger danger. It can lead to serious mental health issues caused by the fear of what might happen leading to depression and a desperation that drives young people to self harm or to contemplate suicide.
- Develop an understanding – Google ‘sexting’, read about real cases and think about what that might mean if it was your child.
- Demonstrate knowledge – Your kids might tell you that people who use Snapchat, or other social media that delete images after viewing, are protected against wider sharing. THEY ARE NOT. There are numerous ways to get around the delete process.
- Speak to your child – Think about the things you did as a young person and reflect on how your life might have been if social media had existed then. Help them reflect on what you have learned by researching some recent cases.
- Trust – Build a trusting relationship. If you cannot talk openly, you cannot help. What sites do they use? Have any of their friends had problems with sexting? If so what have they learned form it?
- Follow the @h2bsaferonline twitter feed, it will keep you up to date with emerging trends and risks.
It is important to take swift action when you know an image has been taken or shared. Children need to feel they can talk to someone so that they can report their fear that an image has been shared with a responsible adult. If an image is posted online they and or the responsible adult should take steps to inform/report it to the Internet service provider or reporting it to the service provider. As an addition they could make contact with an appropriate charity for advice and support, e.g., Childline in the UK to inform CEOP.
www.cybermentors.org.uk provides great support and advice.
Remember that by sexting, you may be breaking the law. Making, distributing and possessing indecent images of children is a criminal offence.