There have been several articles in the news media in the last week or so raising the issue around sexting and the impact it is having on young people.
On Tuesday 22nd March, the BBC highlighted the issue related to the lack of statutory PSHE and sex education in state maintained schools, especially in line with the recent announcements of academisation of all schools by 2022. In the article it reported that;
“The police in England investigated more than 13 times as many cases of sexting among under-16s last year as in 2013, according to figures obtained through a Freedom of Information request. Of 39 police forces in England, 18 responded to Labour’s request for information. In 2013, the 18 forces investigated 51 cases of under-16s “sending or receiving explicit messages and images on a mobile telecommunications device”. By last year, this figure had risen to 665.”
On Saturday 12th March, the Telegraph highlighted the same issue, reporting that 50 schools were asked about details of sexting cases since 2012 and they identified 1,218 incidents of a ‘sext’ being sent, where a sext was defined as a sexual or indecent image of a minor shared by a mobile phone, webcam, digital camera or website. It went on to highlight that 1 in 10 incidents involved a ‘non-school adult’.
In recent discussions we have had with the Safer Internet Centre around this issue, they identified cases including:
- Children as young as 8 years old sending images on Instagram and Snapchat that made the local paper and involved the police
- A 10 year old who sent a picture of his genitals on Whatsapp which was reported by another pupil in the school was dealt with via CEOP and the Safer Internet Centre.
This second case also highlighted an issue we have picked up in our consultation and that is the lack of recording of incidents and the understanding of how to handle them.
We cannot continue to think that this is simply an issue that is limited to older students, but we must be aware that this behaviour is both on the increase but is possibly becoming normalised for younger and younger students.
For schools looking for resources to help understand the issue or how they can help their young people, a couple of good places to start are:
https://www.thinkuknow.co.uk/teachers/resources/ (You may require to register to gain access to some of these resources)