A soaring increase in ‘sexting’ or nude selfies, amongst children under sixteen, was recently reported by 18 police forces in England.
The Labour party says police in England investigated more than 13 times as many cases of sexting among under-16s last year as in 2013, according to figures obtained through a Freedom of Information request.
Of 39 police forces in England, 18 responded to Labour's request for information.
In 2013, the 18 forces investigated 51 cases of under-16s "sending or receiving explicit messages and images on a mobile telecommunications device".
By last year, this figure had risen to 665.
Dangers of sexting
Sexting involves either sending or receiving explicit messages and images
Many young people share images or videos without knowing it could be breaking the law
It is a criminal offence to take, share or hold "indecent" photos of anyone under 18
Anyone convicted of an offence can be placed on the sex offenders register
In 2015 a 14-year-old boy who sent a naked selfie to a girl at school was recorded by police for making and distributing indecent images.
This is 1 of 4 films from NCA-CEOP Command's Thinkuknow education programme, watch all.
So as parents and carers, what do we need to know to protect our children?
Firstly, we need to understand young people’s motivations for sending nude selfies.
Then we need to have a plan to respond positively and constructively if we discover our child has shared a nude selfie.
In my role as a CEOP Ambassador I work with parents and teachers on the subject and I agree with CEOP when they say that parents need to gain confidence and skills in initiating preventative conversations.
Their parents’ toolkit helps to identify risky behaviours and know where to seek help if a child is at risk of sharing an image.
When speaking to young people about their motivation to send nude selfies, it can come as a shock to adults when they say it’s not a big deal and that it’s just part of growing up, a kind of flirting, fun, a joke. It could also be because they are curious, experimenting, trying to fit in – all normal parts of growing up.
Knowing how to address these attitudes is understandably a challenge.
But before you feel a sense of despair, the good news is that there is support and help out there. ThinkUKnow have produced four two minute films for parents. They’re packed with information and advice on helping your child avoid taking risks online, how to know what’s safe and what’s not and where to go for help if anything goes wrong.
They are well worth taking a look.