'I can do all things with the help of God who strengthens me.' Philippians (4:13)

7. Sexting

7. Sexting

Sexting is the action to take, send, post or share nude and sexual pictures or text of a sexual nature with others. It is becoming increasingly common activity among children and young people as it is often considered as normal, harmless fun or flirting. There are a number of reasons why young people sext.

One reason is that it is seen as a normal part of sexual exploration within their modern teen culture. However, it could be peer pressure where they are being directly asked to send nude pictures. Sometimes the child might fear being laughed at or bullied if they don't co-operate. In some relationships it is expected and young people can think that if they refuse their partner will break up with them for someone who will send an image. Nudes and sexting can also be used as trophies, the more pictures that someone has on their phone, the more popular or more admired they are by their friends. Others may send nudes to get attention of someone that they like and or they want to be noticed. It is also seen to be an easier method for them to engage in nudity or sexual flirting rather than face to face as they may feel more comfortable doing it that way. The child or young person may feel they have trust in that person that they are sending it to who they hope will likely to become a partner.

A lot of young people believe that what they send can be easily erased completely after it has been sent. This is not the case!

What are the risks? When sending nudes or sexting, young people may be at risk of exploitation, blackmail or bullying, especially if the photos are shared past the intended recipient. As a parent or carer you need to have a conversation with your children about the risks associated with this type of behaviour. Talking to your child about nudes and sexting, can be an awkward conversation for both of you. If you feel unable to have this conversation, then it may be that you ask another person who your child trusts to speak to them on your behalf. But it is ultimately important to have these conversations. Talk with them about the reasons why they may send a nude or text of a sexual nature and then you can then talk them through the possible consequences of sending these through social media. Most importantly, you need to make them aware of who they can speak to if they do engage in this behaviour and if it gets shared. Let them know that they can always come to you. However, if they feel that they cannot discuss it with you as their parent or carer for whatever reason, then you should advise them that they should talk to an adult that they trust.

What is the law? Taking, possessing, sharing, showing and distributing indecent images of a child under 18 is an offence. Offences against a child or young person under 18 can also be committed by a child. The law recognises that most cases of sexting happen because of a growing trend of sharing pictures in a relationship which has become part of a young person's social and sexual development. So as a Police Force, we understand and we can use discretion with regards to sending nudes or sexting where it has happened within a consensual and age appropriate relationship. First and foremost, we look to safeguard young people, to educate them and not criminalise. However, in cases where there are aggravating factors, it may be necessary for the police to take-action to those involved. Aggravating factors could include things like a wide age gap, blackmail or threats.

There are some good resources available. If a nude image has been shared of your child you can report it using the report and remove tool on the NSPCC website. You also have CEOP if you think that your child has been at risk of online sexual abuse or grooming. You can report your concerns directly to them. You can find the links to a set of videos from the CEOP on the ‘Think You Know’ website. There are four videos which follow 15year old Harry who has shared a nude photo with his girlfriend, the videos cover his parent’s reaction, the conversations they have had with him, his reasons for sharing and the consequences of this.