Last Updated on 26th September 2023

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Social media is a great place for young people to share photos with each other – showing what they’ve been up to, commemorating special occasions, and sharing special memories.

Unfortunately, there have been documented cases of people scouring social media profiles to find photographs of children and young people in school uniforms to post in private groups that seemingly have sexual child abuse connotations.

There have even been incidents where photographs of people who are now adults have had old photos from when they were in school taken from their social media pages and posted on these types of groups.

Responding and Reacting: Steps to Take Today

For those who have had their photographs posted on these type of pages, groups, and sites – whatever their current day age – the lack of criminality involved is likely to be of little comfort. In fact, it may even add to the frustration. Law is most often black and white, as in this case, and leaves little room for nuances.

As for parents and carers, many of you may be worried by these incidents, and wondering what to do next and how to protect the children and young people in your care from being targeted.

It’s not always easy to know where to turn to and what to do when something like this happens, especially given the lack of legal resources available. That’s why we’ve created this guide to give you practical steps you can take today.

Privacy Settings and Controls

One of the most practical steps we can all take is to utilise the settings available on social media. Often under-looked or misused, social media privacy settings can be key for keeping control of who can access personal content and information.

In such the mentioned cases, photographs have been taken directly from public social media pages. No one has technically ‘stolen’ these photos. It’s also worth remembering that people create fake profiles with the intention of adding children and young people as a ‘friend’ to access their photographs.

You can learn how to use the privacy settings on each of the main social media platforms via our Safety Centre, where you can also find out how to block and report users.

Copyrighting Content

In the UK, photographs, illustrations, and other images are generally protected by copyright – meaning that users will usually need the permission of the owner to copy the image or share it on the internet. This includes images taken on mobile phones or cameras.

You own your image, in order to protect yourself, copyright it. If you want social media sites to take an image down, the quickest way to do it is to point the fact you have copyrighted it.

Jim Gamble QPM Chief Executive Officer
Ineqe Safeguarding Group

How to report copyright infringements:

While not required by law, you can include the copyright symbol © on your images to make the processing of reports quicker. It also helps you establish ownership of the image.

Top Tips and Talking Points

Use our top tips and talking points to start conversations with the young people in your care.

Pause before posting

Talk to the young person in your care about what they’re posting online, ; content that may seem innocent to them could contain information and images that are potentially harmful or could be misused.

Encourage them to ‘pause before posting’ – have they reflecting on who they want to view the content? Posting something publicly means anyone can see it. Are they giving away information without realising (such as anything visible in the background)?

This also applies to parents and carers too. Sharenting is the act of sharing information online about their children, creating a digital imprint. Find out more about the risks of sharenting and why we all need to be careful what and where we’re posting.

Talk about Safety & Privacy Settings Together

Using our Safety Centre, learn together how to use safety settings and talk about parental controls, including why they’re important and that you should both remember to check them regularly for any updates or changes to the settings.

Trusted Adults

Make sure the children and young people in your life knows who their Trusted Adults are so they know who to turn to if they’re worried, stressed or upset. Remember, even if a young person doesn’t know whether their photo has been used or not, they may still be worried or upset about it. Use our Trusted Adult resources to help.

Taking back control

If a child or young person has posted self-generated sexual imagery, or it has been shared online by others it’s important to know what steps you can take to support them. Read our article on taking back control of self-generated images.

Reporting Child Sexual Abuse Imagery

  • Childline and the IWF have an online tool to help children and young people regain control of any nude image of themselves online. You can access this here.
  • Adults can make an online report to CEOP (Child Exploitation and Online Protection Command) or contact the local police force for support if they have concerns a child is being groomed or sexually abused online.

  • Adults can also report the URL of images for removal directly to the Internet Watch Foundation.

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