Youngsters warned about ‘sexting’ as police say issue has ‘grown rapidly’

Youngsters warned about ‘sexting’ as police say issue has ‘grown rapidly’

Police are warning youngsters about the dangers of ‘sexting’ and are urging them to think about their online behaviour.

Thames Valley Police has launched its #ProtectYourWorld campaign to highlight the dangers of sharing explicit images online or via text.

A survey of more than 200 13 and 14-year-olds from across the Thames Valley revealed:

  • A quarter of those asked said they had received a nude or sexual image
  • Almost half said that young people were most likely to get involved in sexting while in year 7 (age 11-12)
  • The most likely reasons for young people to send ‘sexts’ was given as ‘to take your relationship to the next level’ (47%) and ‘peer pressure from a boyfriend/girlfriend’ (45%)
  • 46 (21%) said they thought young people sent sexts to stop their boyfriend or girlfriend from ‘dumping’ them

The force is launching an online safety competition for under 18s to engage with young people by asking them to send in their own ideas and advice on staying safe online. The winner will receive an iPad Mini 2 and one runner-up will win a Chromebook.

People can share their ideas in any way they wish, including videos and stories. The competition will run until Monday, October 3. Click here to take part.

Detective Superintendent Nick John said: “We are focussing on sexting as this is a very current issue, which has grown rapidly and can be misunderstood.

“Sexting is illegal if you are under 18. By sending an explicit image, even if it is of yourself, you are producing and distributing an indecent image of a child - even if the picture is taken and shared with your/their permission.

“Young people may see sexting as harmless and while we do not wish to criminalise them, taking, sharing or receiving an image of this nature is illegal and can lead to serious consequences, including blackmail, bullying, harassment, which can have a long-lasting negative impact. It can also make young people a target of sex offenders.

“We hope that by opening up the conversation and raising awareness, we will encourage young people to think about their behaviour – and parents and carers to enter into conversation with their children about it too.”

A 17-year-old girl from the Thames Valley area has shared her experience of sexting after being encouraged by a boy at college to send an intimate picture of herself, which he then shared on Facebook.

She said: “The whole thing made me feel really rubbish, like it was my fault. It’s made me not trust people I meet and look at them differently. When they want to be my friend, I don’t know if that is true anymore.”

If you believe you are the victim of cyber crime, you can call the TVP non-emergency number 101 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

Find out more about the campaign here.

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