Wednesday July 12, 2017
Police and children's charities are concerned that the age of those being drawn into sexting is getting lower CREDIT: PHILIP TOSCANO/PA
A boy aged just five is believed to have become the youngest person in Britain to be investigated by police for allegedly sexting.
The child and his parents were spoken to by officers after he took an intimate picture of himself and sent it to another child on an iPad, it has emerged.
The number of cases where children have taken explicit pictures of themselves and sent them to others has soared in the past two years, figures reveal.
But police and children's charities are concerned that the age of those being drawn into the practice is getting lower.
Once the picture has been sent they can't get it back and the consequences of that can be devastating for the young people involvedHelen Westerman, NSPCC
The five-year-old in County Durham was spoken to by officers from Durham Constabulary last year, which is believed to have made him the youngest person to be investigated for taking and sending sexually explicit selfies.
DCI Steve Thubron, of Durham Police, said: "We record incidents in line with national crime recording standards, which we cannot deviate from. However, we deal with incidents proportionately and obviously do not criminalise children.
"Cases of 'sexting' are dealt with on a case-by-case basis with the focus always being on safeguarding and keeping children safe.
"We have worked with other agencies to provide advice and guidance to both schoolteachers and young people. We would urge any children who are worried to speak with a trusted adult or call 101."
What are the UK laws on sexting?
Possessing, taking or distributing images of someone who is under the age of 18 is illegal in the UK
This is even if the person in the photo is the one possessing, distributing or taking the photographs.
Teens have faced criminal investigation after sending naked photos of themselves to each other. However, the police are against criminalising children for doing this, and would prefer to educate and offer support to them
ChildLine received over 1,200 counselling calls that mentioned “sexting” in 2014/15
An 2013 NSPCC/Childline survey showed that 60 per cent of teens had been asked for naked photos of themselves and 40 per cent had taken nude “selfies”.
More than 4,000 children have been dealt with by police for sexting since 2013. The most common age of these children is 13 or 14, figures show.
The latest statistics have emerged from a Freedom of Information request to all UK police forces in an investigation by BBC Newcastle.
A 10-year-old boy, only just at the age of criminal responsibility, has also been cautioned by Northumbria Police for sexting.
The boy sent a sexual image of himself to an 11-year-old child using Oovoo, a free social media video and image sharing app.
Greater Manchester Police recorded the highest number of child sexters with 695 cases looked into, including four seven-year-olds and four eight-year-olds.
It is illegal to possess, take or distribute images of someone who is under the age of 18, even if the image is of yourself.
Sexting: How to protect yourself and children online | By Dr Laura Toogood
Anti Virus Software
Make sure you have up to date antivirus software and a firewall installed on your computer such as Windows Security Essentials. Encryption software such as Symantec Drive Encryption or Windows bitlocker also adds an extra level of security.
Don't click on suspicious links
Viruses can be spread via links in emails. Do not open any messages from unknown or unexpected addresses.
Make children aware
Highlight the risks of interacting and making friends with people who they don’t know online. Guide young children through the internet journey – you wouldn’t let them walk alone in a vast city , so don’t let them go unguided here.
Implement family settings
Apply any settings that automatically block inappropriate content. However, be aware they are not always foolproof and need regular checks.Make sure you use strong passwords that include a combination of numbers, upper and lower case characters and symbols. Avoid using the same passwords for multiple accounts. You may want to consider using a password manager like LastPass to help you manage this.
Social engineering is popular with hackers - this means they collect data about you to help them bypass passwords. This can include guessing security questions, such as your birthplace, which maybe available on your Facebook profile. Where possible always set your own security question - one that's not answerable with publicly available information. Where security answers must be chosen from a pre-set list, consider using information that is incorrect but that you will still remember, for example instead of using your real birthplace, perhaps pick your favourite city.
Read about the privacy settings
Make sure you read advice about social media privacy settings so that your accounts have the appropriate level of protection.
Test your social media accounts
Log out of all accounts and see what you are able to access as an anonymous user. Using Google Incognito is a good way of conducting searches that are unaffected by your search history.
Avoid joining any public networks that are not password protected.
Make sure you log out of all personal accounts if you are using a public computer.
Think before you post
Make a decision as to whether you mind certain information, or images being posted online. How you would feel if they were shared by a third party?
Wipe old devices
If you sell your mobile phone or iPad, make sure all data has been wiped from the device before it changes hands.
Helen Westerman, NSPCC campaigns manager, said: "For some children it is a voluntary action, something they want to do for a risk or a dare.
"But for others it is something they have been coerced into in some way. They may have been put under pressure by friends, peers or partners, but once it is out there it is out there.
"Once the picture has been sent they can't get it back and the consequences of that can be devastating for the young people involved."
Last year, a survey of teachers in the NASUWT union revealed more than half were aware of incidents of children sexting at their school, including primary-school pupils as young as seven.
A quarter of teachers who responded said they were aware of 11-year-olds sexting but the majority of incidents involved pupils aged 13 to 16.