Children as young as 10 in 'sexting' cases, police say

Children as young as 10 have been investigated by police for 'sexting', according to new figures released today.

Children as young as 10 in 'sexting' cases, police say

West Mercia Police said officers had looked into 74 cases of children sending or sharing explicit or naked pictures of themselves on social media or text messaging services to others in the last year.

All the children involved were aged between 10 and 17 years old.

The figures have been released as part of a drive to emphasise the importance of staying safe online.

West Mercia Police are hoping to highlight the hidden dangers of the web to mark Safer Internet Day, which takes place tomorrow.

A new social media campaign is also being launched which encourages teenagers to think before posing something online which they may later regret.

This is the ' SMART advice given to children in schools about sexting: west mercia police

  • S: ‘Sexting’ may seem like harmless fun but it’s not.

  • M: Make sure you don’t send something to another person that you’ll later regret.

  • A: As soon as you send or post a picture you lose control of where it ends up.

  • R: Remember; once a picture is on the internet it can be copied by anybody.

  • T: Talk to a parent, carer or teacher if you are concerned.[/breakout]

Detective Chief Inspector Sean Paley, from Warwickshire and West Mercia Police's specialist operations unit, said: "Sexting may be considered harmless fun by some young people but this could not be further from the truth.

"Once an image has been sent the sender has no control of where it ends up and who sees it.

"There can be huge ramifications, leaving people vulnerable to blackmail, bullying and harm, as well as the fact that children who are sexting may actually be committing criminal offences.

"Safer Internet Day is an excellent time to highlight the importance of staying safe online generally and for people to improve their knowledge and understanding of how to protect themselves in cyber space.

"Parents and carers can also play an important role in ensuring children are protected.

"They should be aware of what children are doing on the internet, the sites they are visiting, who they are talking to and ensuring they know there is an adult to talk to if they are concerned."

A leaflet on the subject, titled The Dangers of Sexting, was created by school pupils in Telford & Wrekin.

Councillor Paul Watling, Telford & Wrekin Council's cabinet member for children and young people, said: "Technology has many advantages when it is used appropriately.

"But some activities such as sexting are very dangerous, and I would strongly advise young people never to do it.

"What you should remember is the moment you press send, you are no longer in control of what you have sent and it can be posted anywhere on the internet.

"This can leave you extremely vulnerable and open to threats or blackmail. The message is simple: Don't ever do it."

The National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) said nationally there were 1,200 ChildLine counselling sessions that mentioned "sexting" in 2014/15, the period for which the most recent figures are available.

Karol Keenan, NSPCC service manager in Birmingham, said the ramifications of getting involved in sexting at a young age could be massive.

He said: "Sexting can have a huge impact on a child's life.

"Once an explicit image is sent, the person in it loses control over where it will end up or who will see it.

"This could lead to shame, embarrassment and bullying for the young person.

"They could also be posted on the internet and still be around for years to come when they are applying for jobs or university, or starting relationships.

"We need to make children aware of the serious risks involved in sexting – and parents play a hugely important role in this by discussing the issue with them.

"We would encourage anyone who is concerned about their child, or any child, to call our helpline on 0808 800 5000."

Ludlow MP Philip Dunne said children needed to be educated on the dangers, saying both parents and schools had a responsibility to make youngsters aware of the dangers.

"Whether by peer pressure or predators, the spread of technology means that children face greater danger," Mr Dunne said.

"We need to educate children to be aware of the dangers of sexting and sharing material online in general, and both parents and schools must play a key role."

The Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (Ceop) has been proactive in trying to highlight the problems of "sexting" and released a 10-minute film around five years ago.

And the UK Council for Child Internet Safety (UKCCIS) has launched guidelines on how to moderate online environments for children.

A spokesman for Ceop said: "We know that young people are increasingly using technology not only to stay in touch, but to explore their sexuality and to push the boundaries in what they send and to whom they send it.

"It is now so easy to send pictures instantly via e-mails and texts that we are seeing instances of boys or girls sending sexual images of themselves to others without considering the consequences.

"They often find out later that the image has been passed on to many others and as a result they can be the victims of bullying or harassment.

"In some rare instances we have seen these images end up in the collections of offenders."

Sian Deane, headteacher at Holmer Lake Primary School in Telford, said last year a group of eight and nine-year-old children had produced a leaflet highlighting the dangers of sexting, which was eventually adopted and sent out to all borough students.

She said parents had fully backed them in the need to warn children of the dangers of technology at such a young age.

"From our experience, children of that age already know what sexting is," she said.

"Young children have got access to technology, if they have got a tablet, a phone or a laptop, they will probably be using instant messaging, Snapchat, and these things can cause an issue with sexting.

"It is important we educate children there is a law about sending indecent images."

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