What you need to know about sexting

What is ‘sexting’?

Sexting is taking a sexually explicit photograph and texting (sharing) it via your mobile phone to others. Sexually explicit content can easily be distributed between people, through the use of smartphones, the Internet and through online social networking sites.

Why is it an issue?

Recent studies claim that up to 39% of teens and 59% of young adults have sexted at least once.

NSPCC Research finds a 15% increase in counselling related to sexting.

As children grow up they will be influenced as much, if not more, by their friends as by their parents. People in the public eye, people they look up to and people they want to be like can also have a powerful influence on them.

It is never too early to invest in positive conversations with children and young people and it is always good to reassure them that no matter what happens they can always come to you or go to the designated safeguarding officer or their parents/guardian for help.

The Law

It is an offence to take or share an indecent image of a child under 18. Therefore, a child who takes an image of themselves and shares it technically commits a criminal offence. Although the Police do not prosecute children who have made a simple error of judgment, the fact it may be investigated causes children to worry and could be a deterrent to them coming forward.

So please reassure them that everyone, including the police, will simply want to help them.

What are the dangers?

Images can be spread privately by text, Messenger, WhatsApp, ooVoo and a range of other apps. They can be posted to social networking sites such as Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram. Most social networking sites have strict policies that prohibit nude photographs however, they are also clear in stating that they are ‘reactive’. They DO NOT proactively monitor all content that is posted on their platforms.

How do I deal with sexting?

When an image, especially a nude image is reported, social networking sites normally will and most definitely should remove the content immediately.

The quicker an inappropriate image is reported, the easier it is for those working in the Internet industry to take the image of their site and to do what they can to prevent or stop it spreading further.

If you are speaking with a child who has confided in you about this issue, BE CAREFUL ABOUT WHAT YOU SAY, and how you say it. Telling a child or young person that once an image goes online, it stays online can remove hope and can be detrimental to a child’s health and wellbeing.

The key is EARLY reporting and EARLY intervention.

And remember sexting is not just about people children engage online, who they don’t really know, it also applies to images they have willingly shared with their boyfriend or girlfriend.