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Sexting advice for parents

Sexting is the production/ and or sharing of sexual and explicit images of young people who are under the age of 18.

The content is usually sent online on social media platforms or over text message on any device that allows you to share media and messages. These include, smartphones, tablets and laptops.

Sexting can also be referred to as YPSI- youth produced sexual imagery. It is a criminal offence in these instances.

It is important for both young people, and adults to be aware of the implications of sexting on physical and mental wellbeing.

If the images are shared, young people can experience bullying at school, online and other places, but also if images are shared online young people can experience unwanted attention from people, including sex offenders who search the internet for images such as these.

Young people involved in incidents of sexting can become emotionally distressed. The embarrassment and humiliation can cause various feelings including self-harm and even suicide.

It is important to remind young people that its ok for them to talk to a trusted adult.

Advice for parents

It is against the law for anyone under the age of 18 to take, share or possess a ‘nude’ of anyone under the age of 18 – even if it’s a selfie.

The Protection of Children Act 1978 that states that it is an immediate offence to obtain, possess or share indecent images of anyone under the age of 18 even if the images were received with the consent of the young person involved. Indecent images don’t necessarily just mean “nudes”. Any image that is deemed sexually explicit counts as a indecent image.

“Indecent” means, for example:

• Naked pictures (nudes);
• Pictures of breasts;
• Pictures of genitals;
• Sex acts including masturbation
• Sexual pictures in underwear or swimsuits/bikinis.

Examples of sexting as a criminal offence:

• A child (under 18) showing or sharing a sexual image with their peer (also under 18);
• A child (under 18) sharing or showing a sexual image created by another child with a peer or an adult;
• A child (under 18) having possession of a sexual image created by a child (under 18).

Sexting by children is primarily considered as a safeguarding issue. We as the police must, by law, record all sexting incidents on our crime system.

As of 2016, we have the option to decide whether to take further action against the young people involved, and if it is in the public’s interest to do so.

It is important that you stay calm. It is a positive thing that your child has come to speak to you or another trusted adult they know.

It can be embarrassing for some young people to talk about things like this, but it’s important that they get help and support straight away.

Make sure to speak to your child and try to establish what has happened and where the image or video has gone.

Ask your child to speak to the receiver of the image or video and have an honest conversation. Ask them to delete the image and if it’s gone onto any social media platforms to take these down straight away.

You can inform a school member of staff, they will then pass it onto the designated safeguarding lead. From there they will decide if they want to report as a crime and alternatively they will able to offer you and your child support and advice.

Reportremove tool:
Childline have joined up with IWF (Internet Watch Foundation) create ReportRemove which allows you to upload the content you want removed from online. The content is then given a specific hash code and the next time someone attempts to upload the content- it will be removed.

They are using an app called YOTI which will safely use a young person’s ID to confirm who they are.

They will need to download YOTI and then use it totake a picture of either their passport or a provisional driving license. YOTI will not store images of your ID.

Once you have proved you are under 18, you will be prompted to make an account with ChildLine so they can support you through the ReportRemove process.

The young person will then be taken to a safe and secure online portal with IWF to upload the content they wish to be reported and removed. Analysts will then give the content a hash code which is shared with internet companies to stop the content being shared or re- uploaded.

Incidents of sexting should be reported to the police for different reasons. The police will always help you and your child.

Dorset Police have to record any incidents of sexting that is reported to us in line with National Crime Recording Standards.

What happens after this point depends on the situation itself.

If there are no ‘aggravating’ factors involved. This means the sexting your child has done does not involve any of the following:

  • There is not a big age difference between the people sending and receiving the images.
  • They haven’t been pressurised or blackmailed into sending images.
  • They haven’t been involved in incidents of sexting or other relevant offences before.
  • No one involved is under the age of 13.
  • No one involved is over the age of 18.
  • There isn’t an intent to harm you and there is no violence involved.
  • No one is making any money or profit from the images.
  • There isn’t any signs of anyone being groomed.

If this is the case the police have the power to use something called ‘Outcome 21’. Outcome 21 means the police have recorded the incident on a police system but will not be taking any further action in this case. Information and support will be provided to you and your child.

Outcome 21 means that your child does not have a criminal record, but it does mean that your child’s information is on a policing system.

If your child does not have any other relevant offences/ incidents against them on a policing system, it is highly unlikely that this would be disclosed on a Disclosure and Barring Service check when they were applying for a job or university for example.

This recorded incident (on its own) will not stop travel to different countries.

If there are aggravating factors involved then the police will investigate as they would any other crime. The outcome of this will depend on the investigation

It is important for parents to make their child aware of the risks of sexting by having an open and honest conversation about it.

Although it can be embarrassing for some young people to talk to any adult about issues like this, it is important to have these conversations to help protect young people.

There are numerous resources available for education on sexting (youth produced sexual imagery), CSE (child sexual exploitation) and other sexual content available here.

For advice about how to talk to children about the risks of sexting - and what you can do to protect them visit the NSPCC here.

Parents, please make sure you children are aware of the below:

  • Not everyone is sexting, even if they say they are.
  • You put yourself at risk of extortion, blackmail and emotional manipulation.
  • You could be physically/mentally harassed and bullied.
  • Once an image is sent it can be spread elsewhere and end up on website that attract paedophiles.
  • Not everyone who you meet online is who they say they are.
  • It is illegal to take, send, share or possess any image of someone under the age of 18 who is naked or semi-naked.
  • If they do sext or they get asked for sexual images, videos or texts they should speak to a trusted adult.

If your child has lost control of a sexual image ask them to contact Childline. Together, Childline and the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) will try to get the image removed. Alternatively you can make a report direct to the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) on their behalf.

Childline have made this process easier by joining up with YOTI, an app that safely uses a young person's ID to confirm who they are. Children will need to download YOTI and then use it to take a picture of either a passport or a provisional driving license. YOTI will not store images of the ID. 

Childline provides instructions on how to do this here

Your child will need to provide a link to the image. But don't keep a copy of the image for evidence after they've sent the link as it’s illegal to share or store child abuse images.

There is helpful advice and tips for young people who have been involved in incidents of sexting in the booklet 'So you got naked online' which parents can show their children.

For more information and support on sexting please visit any of the below sites:

NSPCC Parentline

The NSPCC has information, advice and a helpline about sexting as well as lots of other topics.

  • Phone: 0808 800 5000
  • Email: help@nspcc.org.uk

UK Safer Internet Centre

The UK Safer Internet Centre have produced checklists on using social networks safely.

Parent info

Parent info provides information and advice to parents from expert organisations on topics ranging from sex and relationships, mental health and online safety. This content includes sexting.

The Internet Watch Foundation

The Internet Watch Foundation can help get sexual or naked images of children and young people removed from the internet.