Practice safe texting, kids.
Police in England and Wales say sexting is on the rise and those involved are getting younger. According to the BBC, 4,000 such cases have been recorded since 2013 — one of which involved a 5-year-old boy.
The child, a County Durham native, is thought to be the youngest person authorities have spoken to about sexting.
More than 600 reports of inappropriate or explicit messages and photos were filed by the Greater Manchester Police. Of those investigations, eight involved 7 and 8 year olds.
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Young people between the ages of 13 and 14 appear to make up the majority of those involved in instances of sexting. Kerry Smith of Plan International U.K., a children’s rights organization, recently appeared on BBC’s “Victoria Derbyshire Program” to discuss the issue in depth.
During the appearance, she said girls are far more likely to be involved in sexting. Smith attributed it to pressure from others, adding that there’s a major “double standard” in how people react to young girls sending explicit content.
“There are double standards. When they do [share], the girls are shamed, not the boys who are holding the phones or the pictures or asking for them,” she said.
According to DCI Steve Thubron of Durham Police, authorities are dealing with each case as it comes. They remain focused on protecting the children involved, rather than punishing them.
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“We deal with incidents proportionately and obviously do no criminalize children,” he said.
“We have worked with other agencies to provide advice and guidance to both schoolteachers and young people,” he continued. “We would urge any children who are worried to speak with a trusted adult or call 101.”
That said, Chief Constable Simon Bailey of the National Police Chiefs’ Council’s child protection taskforce, said sexting must be taken seriously. He noted that once a photo is sent, it’s out of the control of the sender which can prove dangerous.
“There are significant risks involved for children and young people; once an image is sent, control is lost, and it can cause significant distress when it gets into wider hands,” said Bailey.
More than 4,000 cases of sexting have been reported in England and Wales since 2013.
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