Sexting – resources for practitioners & parents

Sexting is when someone sends or receives a sexually explicit image, video or text, usually on a mobile phone.

Sexting can include:

The law on images of child abuse is clear. It is an offence to take, permit to be taken, make, possess, show, distribute or advertise indecent images of children in the United Kingdom.

Children and young people are skilled in using computers, tablets, mobile phones and gaming devices such as the Wii, XBox or PlayStation Portable (PSP). New technology offers opportunities and knowledge but also new risks and challenges, particularly for children and young people.

Implications for everyone
All social media can pose a huge risk – posting inappropriate content online may become public and is permanent. Further education institutes and employers are increasingly checking informal social media information when assessing a person’s application for work or training.

There have also been numerous reports of young people sharing sexual, naked or semi-naked images of themselves (known as sexting) – this could lead to embarrassment, blackmail or even a criminal record.

The best advise is to use the ‘Granny rule’ – ask a child “would you want your Granny to see the image you are sharing?”

Local guidance
The MSB has adopted the GMSP procedures for safeguarding children and young people and these can be found at greatermanchesterscb.proceduresonline.com

Online Abuse advice
There is a huge range of online safety / sexting advice available on the internet – some useful links are provided below.

‘Secret’ texting codes children & young people could be using

Police forces are promoting a glossary of terms that children are using on the internet that are incomprehensible to their parents.

The list was originally compiled by the Police Service of Northern Ireland and Belfast Live has since published an updated version of the list on its website at www.belfastlive.co.uk

Police feared many families would not what was going on if they found letters such as WYRN or P911 or LMIRL, MOS, TDTM or IWSN on a child’s phone so making parents aware of the cryptic messages, which also include drug references, is a key part of keeping children safe.

Parents can also find a huge list of texting and online chat abbreviations – from A3 to ZZZ – to help them translate and understand texts on the Webopedia website at www.webopedia.com

Advice to share with children & young people

ChildLine has a wealth of age appropriate advice aimed at young people which can be found on its website at www.childline.org.uk/sexting

Victim Support have resources to help young people cope with the impact and effects of crime. Useful tips for young people and for parents and professionals can be found on their website at www.victimsupport.org.uk

Advice to share with parents, carers & practitioners

In 2015 the government launched a new online tool for schools to give parents advice and tips on preparing their children for adult life – this an be found at www.gov.uk/national-safety-tool

The online service Parent Info gives parents the information they need to help them navigate the minefield of issues children can now face on everything from spotting the warning signs of self-harm, to having a healthy body image and managing money in a digital world.

As well as giving parents the confidence and support to speak to their children on such sensitive issues, it will also provide them with pathways for where they can go for more hands on support on specific issues. Find information and support on the Parent Info website at parentinfo.org

ThinkUKnow website provides a range of online videos and games to educate children and young people about safer internet use and provides resources for schools, children and parents.

Find out more at www.thinkuknow.co.uk –  the site also has links to report concerns.

Think U Know offers specific advice on selfies and sexting on their website at www.thinkuknow.co.uk/selfies-and-sexting/.

Parents Protect offer an information and resources which aims to raise awareness about child sexual abuse, answer questions and give adults the information, advice, support and facts, they need to help protect children.

Find this on their website at www.parentsprotect.co.uk/sexting

The Safer Internet Centre has set up a national helpline for professionals working with children and young people, specifically tackling the area of online safety. This support includes social networking sites, bullying, sexting, online gaming and child protection.

The helpline also aims to resolve issues professionals face, such as protecting professional identity. The UK Safer Internet Centre also publishes a regular newsletter.

The helpline is primarily a signposting, advice and mediation service; urgent safeguarding matters should be dealt with as normal child protection procedures. Due to the nature of the service, confidentiality cannot be guaranteed, although anonymity will be protected where possible.

Contact the Safer Internet Centre Helpline on tele: 0844 381 4772 (Monday to Friday, 10.00am – 4.00pm) or by email to helpline@saferinternet.org.uk or online through their website at www.saferinternet.org.uk/

The Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) is the only recognised organisation in the UK operating an internet ‘Hotline’ for the public and IT professionals to report their inadvertent exposure to potentially illegal content online.

Its aim is to minimise the availability of potentially illegal internet content, specifically:

  • child sexual abuse images hosted anywhere in the world
  • criminally obscene content hosted in the UK
  • incitement to racial hatred content hosted in the UK.

You can report online sexual abuse and content, as well as inappropriate chat or behaviour towards a child online, on the IWF website. If you see an image of child abuse you should report it on the website at www.iwf.org.uk 

Please note: it is against the law to actively seek out such images and doing so in order to report it would not be a defence in court.

The Child Exploitation and Online Protection (CEOP) Centre works to eradicate the sexual abuse of children, tracking and bringing offenders to account either directly or in partnership with local and international forces. Find out more on their website at www.ceop.police.uk

ClickCEOP is a Facebook application that helps to promote safer Internet use when using Facebook. To find out more visit the website at www.facebook.com/clickceop

Childnet International is a children’s charity with the mission to help make the internet a great and safe place for children. Childnet has developed a range of award-winning websites and resources to help provide children, parents and teachers with the information and skills they need to use the internet safely and responsibly.

The Know IT All for parents contains advice for parents and carers and a special section for children and young people – find these resources on the website at www.childnet.com

NSPCC has lots of useful information on their website at www.nspcc.org.uk/sexting

Learning and Development

The MSB offers online learning with our partner Virtual College on this topic – find out more on their website  at manchesterscb.virtual-college.co.uk

The NSPCC has recently launched an online learning course for anyone working with children. The course is a joint initiative between the NSPCC and the Child Exploitation Online Protection Centre (CEOP).

The keeping children safe online course is an online introductory safeguarding course for anyone who works with children to enable them to learn how children use the internet and how to keep them safe from abuse. Find the course at learning.nspcc.org.uk/keeping-children-safe-online-online-course

Further reading
Media articles from 2016 include:

Sources of help for learning and development:

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