Humberside Police, in Yorkshire, said they had recently received “numerous reports” of young people sexting and sharing sexual, naked or semi-naked photos.
Issuing the guidance on Tuesday 11 April, they wrote on their website: “We’re urging parents to talk to their children about the dangers of sexting as it could lead to embarrassment, blackmail or even a criminal record.”
The statement continued: “We know talking about sexting with your child may feel uncomfortable or awkward but it is incredibly important to discuss the risks, teach them how to stay safe and explain how these reports can use up valuable police investigation time.”
The police force issued the following six tips for parents to help them discuss sexting with their child:
1. Don’t accuse them of sexting, but do explain the dangers and legal issues.
2. Tell them what can happen when things go wrong.
3. It may be easier to use examples, such as television programmes or news stories where sexting takes place.
4. Ask them if they’d want something private shown to the world. Talk about the granny rule: ‘Would you want your granny to see the image you’re sharing?’
5. Talk about whether a person who asks for an image from you might also be asking other people for images.
6. If children are sending images to people they trust, they might not think there’s much risk involved. Use examples of when friends or partners have had a falling-out and what might happen to the images if this happens.
In January 2017, parents were warned about a long list of “sexting codes” that their child could potentially be using.
The Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) shared an image of the codes that was revealed by a US technology programme: ‘The Kim Komando Show’.
A study by the NSPCC in 2016 revealed that 50% of parents do not know it is illegal for their child to take nude selfies.
A young person (under 16 years old) is breaking the law if they:
Take an explicit photo or video of themselves or someone else.
Share an explicit image or video of a child, even shared between people of the same age.
Possess, download or store these images.
As of January 2016, 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.
For more information and advice on sexting, visit NSPCC.org.uk.