In my job working in Child Protection we are at the forefront of the current epidemic of children and young people sending indecent images of themselves or other people on their mobiles or via social networking sites like What’s App, KiK, Instagram, SnapChat, etc. The eponymous dick or clit pic. Really, I mean come on. The genitals are like nature’s little joke. Why on earth would you want to photograph then anyway? On a daily basis we see cases where children have either sent the images themselves or shared an image that was sent to them. Few seem to realise that this is actually a criminal activity that risks them ending up on the Sex Offenders Register. Here’s a handy guide to help you educate your child and yourself about the very real risks associated with so called ‘sexting’.1. The sending of indecent images of a person under the age of 18 is a criminal offence. It matters not one bit if it was consensual or not or if you were the one who took it or you just shared it with your mates. It is illegal.2. In the US there have been a number of suicides of young people after indecent images they had shared appeared on social media sites3. An image on the internet has no natural lifespan; once posted it can be copied by many others including those who may be predatory abusers. It can be seen on the other side of the world within hours.4. CEOP (Child Protection and Online Exploitation) is aware of cases where self-taken indecent images (which were not produced as a result of grooming or facilitation) have ended up on paedophile chat sites and forums.5. Crimes involving child abuse images fall under Section 1 of the Protection of Children Act 1978, as amended by section 45 of the Sexual Offences Act 2003 to extend the definition of children from under 16s to under 18s. It is a crime to take, make, permit to take, distribute, show, possess, possess with intent to distribute, or to advertise indecent photographs or pseudo-photographs of any person below the age of 18.6. The consequences of this to the person who takes or shares them are far reaching. A prosecution for any of these offences means that an offender is placed on the sex offenders register for a duration that is commensurate with the sentence they receive. Even though the times are generally reduced for those aged younger than 18, this can still mean in some cases a considerable time spent on the register. Does you child really want to risk this? Although the focus in the UK is education rather than criminalisation, in the US, children have been prosecuted for taking and distributing indecent images of themselves or others. There is nothing to say that the UK standpoint may not change in the future
7. If indecent photos of a young person come to the notice of a school or the police then they have a duty to pass the information on to their local authority Children’s Social Care department. This means that the child’s name and details of the incident will be recorded on their database indefinitely. In the future, if your child wants to become, say a sports coach, a volunteer with children or in fact any job that requires a CRB (now called DBS) or local authority check, this information will be disclosed. In years to come does you child really want a future employer to know they sent ‘dick pics’ or photos of themselves masturbating to classmates?
8. If you think that this is something that only happens with older teens then think again. I have had cases of children as young as nine - and it wasn’t an isolated incident.
9. Once you have pressed ‘send’ you have lost control of your photos. You may think it’s safe to send it to your partner because he/she loves you, right? So what happens when they don’t anymore? Or you do something to upset them? There are women (and probably some men) who are still having to spend hours each week tracking down photos of themselves that have been uploaded and shared to porn sites. Is that really what you want for yourself?10. Do not let your child join KiK. Of all the social networks this is the worst and the one which produces the most reports. Unlike other apps, you don't have to register. It is totally anonymous. A paedophile's dream. If your child already has a KiK account, delete it. End of.
Sexual experimentation and pushing the boundaries is normal for young people but maybe explain to them that they should try and do it without the use of their phone camera. Below is a short video produced by the NSPCC. Share it with your child and start the conversation.
A quick catch-up
5 hours ago