What is sexting?
Technology and social media can be wonderful things, but both come with risk. UKCCIS define sexting as the production and / or sharing of sexual photos or videos. Under 18s are particularly vulnerable when sharing images and videos of nudity, nearly nude or sexual acts involving them or others.
Sexting also gets called 'sending nudes' and can be referred to as 'youth produced sexual imagery.
It is important to remember that when adults share photos or videos of under 18s this is child abuse and should be reported to MASH.
Why do young people sext?
There are a number of reasons why young people might send naked images and it's important to consider all causes, such as:
- peer pressure
- normalised behaviour
- exploring their sexual feelings
- boosting their self-esteem
What is the law?
If anyone under the age of 18 possesses, takes or shares nude or sexual images then they are breaking the law.
We need to handle cases of sexting carefully so that we don't scare or distance young people from talking about it or being involved in the conversation. There needs to be a calm approach that lets children or young people talk to us about their safeguarding concerns. We don't want to frighten them in assemblies, make them feel shame or embarrass them for their behaviour.
How to approach cases of sexting
Please follow the UKCCIS guidance or refer to 'so you got naked online' document.
There are strong links between sexting and grooming of young people. If you are worried that a child or young person is being groomed online, you can go over the responding to and managing sexting incidents.
Make sure you really listen to what the young person is telling you and remember to validate their feelings. Finally, we need to challenge the behaviour and not the technology. Removing devices or advising parents to remove the device could have the opposite effect.
You can find more guidance on sexting from Childline.
Preventation of sexting in a school or setting
A great way to keep children safe online is to embed sexting within the curriculum especially PSHE. There are a number of resources that can help, but we recommend you take into consideration age limits: