I am writing this update the day after attending a course titled ‘Dealing with sexting incidents in school’. This issue, like most regarding online safety, is a complex one and the way in which the police respond to such incidents has recently changed.
Sexting – what is it?
Sexting is when individuals or groups of individuals share naked or semi-naked images or videos of themselves or others. This includes topless images in the case of girls and can also include images where underwear is worn but the individual is posing in a sexualised manner. Amongst consenting adults, sexting does not present a safeguarding issue. However, if the images include individuals under 18 (note, not 16) then creation, distribution or possession of these images is illegal and would be dealt with as a safeguarding incident in school. So, even if the person under 18 takes a naked/semi-naked/sexualised selfie and sends it to anyone else, they are potentially breaking the law.
Sexting – how common is it?
Latest statistics from the NSPCC suggest that between 15 and 40% of young people have been involved in sexting in some way, either creating or receiving images. This varies by age group and region, but I can confirm that it is a matter we have dealt with numerous times at Twynham. Young people say they do this to fit in, as a way of exploring their sexual feelings and to get attention on social media. Only a minority of young people create the images, but it is important to remember that just possession of these images (even if sent unsolicited) constitutes a breach of the law, whilst forwarding them onto others is a further breach.
Sexting – what’s the worst that could happen?
From a legal perspective, there has been a move away from criminalising young people when it comes to sexting, which can only be a good thing. It is still possible that involvement in sexting could lead to the involvement of the police, both from an educational and criminal perspective. Even if an individual is not prosecuted, information may remain on file that could impact on their ability to work in certain countries or in certain professions in future, particularly where they involve working with children. Aside from the legal implications, there are numerous examples where young people have ended up having to move schools and in a small minority of cases, young people have gone on to commit suicide due to the fallout of these incidents.
Sexting – what can you do as a parent?
As with all aspects of online safety, having an open and ongoing conversation with your young person is vitally important. Sharing of images is now almost a part of their DNA and there are complex reasons why a young person might go beyond the usual sharing of selfies into the realms of sexting. Yes, it could happen to your son or daughter.
A final thought… SHARENTING?
Are you guilty of ‘sharenting’? Sharenting is the overuse of social media by parents to share content based on their children. We are all role models to our children when it comes to our own use of social media. We should always encourage our children to ask permission or seek consent before sharing any image of another person. So here’s a thought… Do you seek consent from your son or daughter before sharing an image of them online?
|Dorset SSCT Online Safety Newsletter - January 2018||30th Jan 2018||Download|
|Online Safety - 2017 Articles||29th Jan 2018||Download|