Over a third of 11 to 18-year-olds have received a sext message by phone or email, according to charity Beatbullying. Their research indicates sexting is escalating at an alarming rate in tune with rapid developments in digital technology.
So what is sexting?
Sexting occurs when children take indecent digital photos or videos of themselves and send them to others via electronic devices.
Common ‘sexts’ include images of children exposing themselves, masturbating, and/or performing other sexual acts, as well as requests to send such images.
The problem is that once taken and sent, the sender loses control of the images and they could end up anywhere. They could be seen by your child’s future employers, their friends or even by paedophiles.
Beatbullying says some child sexts end up on forums used by child sex offenders. The charity, which surveyed 2,094 young people in England, said 23% of messages came from a current boyfriend or girlfriend, 45% from friends and 2% from adults.
Why is this happening?
As mobile phones with cameras and internet access are readily available these days, images can be shared easily and at a reduced cost. Material is often Bluetoothed, added to home built websites, uploaded onto social networking groups and sent around by email or text.
As well as this, young people will always look to push the boundaries at an age when they are more sexually and socially aware.
What should you do if you are concerned?
If you are worried your child may be receiving or sending indecent images, you should talk to them about the consequences of their actions. Make them aware that once the image has been sent, they have lost control of that image and anyone can potentially have a look at it.
You should also warn them about the consequences of receiving, storing, or distributing indecent images of people under the age of 18, which is an extremely serious crime under the Sexual Offences Act 2003.
You can visit www.thinkuknow.co.uk for more information and advice on some of the risks that your child could be taking and how to deal with it.
And if you are concerned that someone is sending your child indecent images or is engaging with them inappropriately, you can report it on the CEOP website.
- 4 ways to protect your children online (Findlaw.co.uk)
- Online legal protection (Findlaw.co.uk)
- Bullying on social networks (Findlaw.co.uk)