Thousands Of Children Investigated Over Sexting


The Law Of… Safeguarding Young People

In the last 3 years, thousands of children have been questioned over their involvement in sexting. The BBC were informed that a child as young as 5 had been questioned over the sending of explicit photographs.

Our Peter Garsden, Abuse Solicitor, explores the recent discoveries and the impact this will have on the many children involved.

The Investigations

It has been revealed that over the last 3 years, nearly 400 children under the age of 12 have been interviewed by the police. There have been more than 4,000 cases of children taking explicit photos of themselves and sending them to others. It was found that 13 or 14 year olds are most likely to be involved.

Whilst these children are not criminalised, their actions are recorded as the National Crime Recording Standards requires.

By law, it is illegal to possess, take or distribute images of an explicit nature if the images are of someone who is under the age of 18. This includes any images taken by the child themselves.

Each case has been dealt with individually, taking each circumstance into consideration with the key aim to safeguard any child involved. Police officers' warnings to children are not of a prosecutory nature, more that children need to realise that once a picture has been sent, they no longer control the privacy of that picture.

Is Safeguarding A Growing Problem?

These revelations come a mere month after it was revealed that SnapChat was going to allow users to follow their friends' physical movement in real-time via their update 'Snap Map'.

This automatic update to the app led to concerns over the implications for young people as the new function would expose children to potential predators. The app does allow for users to enable 'ghost mode' which effectively switches off the map monitoring.

Applications for smart phones are continually being developed to allow for advancements in communication. But some applications have been used for much darker purposes. The Calculator Vault app has been used by children to store and hide explicit photos away from the eyes of parents or carers.

What Can Be Done?

Whilst the sending of these photos might be a rather mindless act at the time, the consequences can be serious and pose a wider issue for safeguarding. Unfortunately, the attitude of many children is that sending these kinds of pictures is 'just a bit of fun' without realising the true danger they are putting themselves in.

It is important for young people to consider:

  • That once an explicit image has been sent, there is no way to have any further control over where that picture goes or who sees it
  • If the picture was found by parents or potential employers it could be damaging
  • It is illegal to send and receive pictures of an explicit nature, if the person in the picture is under the age of 18
  • The Association of Chief Police Officers of England, Wales and Northern Ireland have stated that young people who have been involved in sexting for the first time, will not face prosecution, but investigations will take place in order to protect and safeguard
  • Young people who repeatedly offend by partaking in sexting will be dealt with differently and potentially more harshly

Peter comments:

"These investigations add a new level to digital safety that may have been overlooked previously, especially by parents."

"The ever changing nature of the internet and apps makes it extremely difficult for adults to monitor what is happening with their children. It seems that the best way to tackle this issue is education."

"By ensuring children understand the true nature and possible outcome of their actions, it is possible to deter these kinds of goings on. But parents will need to pay close attention to developments in technology and educate themselves as well."

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