Sexting among children is a growing problem among young children, with 65% of 8 – 11-year-olds owning a mobile phone, parents need to be aware of the dangers this presents. The upcoming summer holidays mean children will have more time on their hands, and could be more likely to fall victim to this form of abuse.
A recent Childline survey of 13 – 18-year-olds showed 60% had received requests to share sexual images of themselves. And 40% had created an image or video of themselves. Another recent study by NASUWT Teachers Union found a quarter of teachers knew pupils as young as 11 involved in sexting. The same study also showed that the youngest pupil known to be involved in sexting was only seven.
We know that paedophiles are using modern technology as a means of accessing images of children. Children can be deceived into sharing images with adults posing as their peers
A huge concern is that children and teenagers don’t understand the risks of sexting, and sending nude photos of themselves via text message and through social media. It is also worrying to learn that sexting is quickly becoming the norm among young people, with 15% of teens even admitting sending nude, or semi-nude, photos of themselves to people they have never met.
There were over 1,400 ChildLine counselling sessions with young people that mentioned 'sexting' in 2015/16. Bolt Burdon Kemp partner and specialist in the child abuse team, David McClenaghan, says: “What might seem like teenagers harmlessly exploring their friendships with these pictures could be very dangerous. If these explicit or nude pictures are shared, they could fall into the hands of child abusers. We know that paedophiles are using modern technology as a means of accessing images of children. Children can be deceived into sharing images with adults posing as their peers.”
What can parents do?
It’s important that parents approach the situation carefully. Demanding to see their child’s phone will only lead to growing secrecy and deleting messages, and will break down trust between parent and child. It’s important that children feel they can talk through any worries they have. If a child feels they need to keep things secret from their parents, the situation can quickly become much worse.
The award-winning law firm, Bolt Bourdon Kemp have produced a downloadable poster and checklist to raise awareness of the dangers of sexting. This is designed not only for parents, but also for use in schools and youth centres, and shows adults the scale of the problem. It also includes advice for parents (and teachers or activity leaders) on how to effectively communicate the dangers of sexting to your child.