Northumbria police launched several probes into alleged sex texting last year and reported that one case involved a 10-year-old boy who sent explicit images to an 11-year-old girl. A boy of 12 was also cautioned for sending rude picture messages of himself to a female classmate.
Another youngster, a teenage girl from the same area, was sent x-rated content through mobile picture messaging app Snapchat, reports MailOnline: “I’ve added boys on there who seemed nice when I started chatting to them, but soon enough they were just sending me disgusting picture after disgusting picture,” she said.
You’re probably horrified at the thought of your pre-teen sex texting but here’s the thing: it’s happening. Even if your child isn’t sending explicit messages if they have a mobile phone they’re at risk of receiving them. It’s an issue that needs to be talked about says the NSPCC.
- Understand the risks. Sexting, also known as sex texting or cyber sex, can take place between mobile phones but also via tablets and web cams. It’s more common than you probably think: There was a 28 percent increase in calls to ChildLine in 2012/2013 (compared to the previous year) that mentioned “sexting” — the equivalent of nearly one every day.
- The majority of teens and pre-teens who indulge in sexting think it’s completely harmless and just a bit of fun, which is why they’re unlikely to talk to their parents about it. Also they don’t want to be judged — or have their phones confiscated.
- Sexting is illegal if you’re under 18 because sending an explicit image of a minor is considered to be producing and distributing child abuse images and risks being prosecuted, even if the picture is taken and shared with their permission.
- A good time to talk about sexting is when you give your child their first mobile phone. Set out the rules, e.g. no using the phone after a certain time in the evening, not taking it to school, etc. and include a conversation about sexting. Ask your child what sort of messages they think are appropriate to send. Advise them that anything they wouldn’t be comfortable sending to you, or their grandparents, is probably not appropriate.
- Explain the dangers of sexting without accusing your child of anything. Tell them that images that are sent to someone else can easily be passed on, shown to other people or published on the internet.
- Let them know that they can talk to you about any concerns they have without being judged or punished.
- Set up controls on your child’s phone to block access to certain sites or monitor their activity.
- If your child has been sending or receiving x-rated messages try to stay calm. Reassure your child that you are on their side and discuss how you can best deal with the situation together.