What would you do if you found out that your child had shared a nude selfie with their boyfriend or girlfriend?
What if that person had shared it with their friends. If it was shared round the whole school or posted online?
It sounds like a nightmare but a new survey by the NSPCC has found that despite three quarters of 1,000 parents across the UK saying sexting was "always" harmful, six out of ten haven't spoken to their children about the risks. And half of parents surveyed didn't know if was illegal for a child to take a nude photo or video of themselves.
Thankfully, in most cases, if a young person is found creating or sharing images, the police can choose to record that a crime has been committed but that taking formal action isn't in the public interest.
Crimes recorded this way are unlikely to appear on future records or checks, unless the young person has been involved in other similar activities which may indicate that they're a risk.
Children are also worried about sexting: in the last year the numbers of children counselled by Childline about sexting have risen 15% to almost 1,400 - around four a day.
Some young people had shared an image and were scared about losing control of it, others had received one of someone else and didn't know how to respond; or they'd shared an image of another person and felt bad about doing so.
Sharing nude selfies can put young people at risk of bullying by peers or being targeted by adult sex offenders, so it's vital that parents talk to their children and that young people feel empowered to say no to sexting requests.
Of course, talking about sexting can be an embarrassing or awkward conversation for both parents and children. And although most parents said they would seek help if an indecent image of their child had been shared on the internet, half of them weren't confident about getting the right support.
So the NSPCC has created a new guide for parents to help them talk to their children about the risks of sexting, what the law says, and what to do if their child has shared a nude image that is being circulated online or among their peers.
Parents who have discovered that their child has been sharing sexual images of themselves should:
• stay calm and try not to get angry with the young person.
• ask who the image has been sent to and where it has been shared.
• encourage them to delete images from their phone or own social media accounts.
• contact the site hosting the images of their child if they have been posted by someone else.
• suggest their child contacts Childline, who can work with the Internet Watch Foundation to try and get images removed if they've been shared more widely.
• discuss issues of consent and trust in healthy relationships or friendships.
The charity has also teamed up with O2 to help parents keep their children safe online. They can contact the O2 NSPCC online safety helpline on 0808 800 5002 to get advice on privacy settings or removing indecent images of their children from mobiles and other devices.
And children and young people can contact Childline free, 24 hours a day on 0800 1111 or get help online. They can also download the Zipit app to keep the situation in control if someone's asking them for naked images.
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