65 children under 18 investigated for ‘sexting activities’ over the last two years – the youngest was just EIGHT. [ Wales Online, by Philip Dewey, 29/8/2015 ].

Children as young as eight have been investigated by South Wales Police for taking part in so-called sexting – including sending indecent photos.

A total of 65 children under the age of 18 have been investigated by the force over the last two years, with 40 girls and 25 boys involved.

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The figures were released under the Freedom of Information Act in respect of those under 18 who had been investigated under the offence of taking an indecent photograph of a child.

Sexting’ means sending a sexually explicit photograph or message using a mobile phone through text messaging services or social sites such as Facebook.

‘Sending these images could land them a criminal record’

Des Mannion, NSPCC Cymru’s head of service, said: “It’s a criminal offence to share an indecent image of someone under 18 even if the person sharing it is a young person themselves.

“They need to be aware that sending images like this could land them with a criminal record.

“These statistics are only the tip of the iceberg because police won’t know about every incidence. We know that sexting is increasingly a feature of adolescent relationships and children do take risks online, sometimes without realising it.”

PICTURE POSED BY MODEL: child on facebook

Children aged 14 most frequently investigated

The age ranges of the children investigated were between eight and 17 years old but 14-year-olds were the most investigated, with 14 instances.

These children would have been in Year Nine or 10 at school.

The majority of those investigated were “advised accordingly,” according to police. Others were referred to social services, made to complete restorative justice, or were the subject of a youth restorative disposal. Three received a youth caution.

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No child was added to the sex offenders’ register.

The biggest medium used to send indecent photographs was texting but other websites and apps were used such as Facebook, App Me, Kik, Hot or Not, and Video Camfrog.

A teenage girl using a mobile phone

Police lessons

A South Wales Police spokesman said: “We work closely with schools on the issues of ‘sexting’ with lessons being delivered on this subject since 2014.

“The sessions have been well received and explain the definition of consent and the possible criminal record consequences of sexting.

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“An important outcome of the work with schools has been the increase in the number of children who have sought advice from their teachers on the subject.

“Where offences are identified South Wales Police seeks to deal in a proportional manner and a range of outcomes are utilised to ensure children are not unnecessarily drawn into the criminal justice system.”

Help is available

Mr Mannion said advice to young people, as well as their parents and carers, was available such as ChildLine’s free ZipIt app.

He said: “It includes witty images and replies they can use when asked for an inappropriate picture to keep in control of the situation.

“Parents and carers concerned about their child’s activity online can also download our free Share Aware guide which contains advice to help keep children safe online, in apps, and on social media.”

Zoe Hilton, of the National Crime Agency’s Ceop Command, said they had been getting reports of harmful situations because of sexting.

Normal for teens – alarming for parents

She said: “With smartphones and tablets, and new apps emerging all the time, this behaviour is becoming quite normal for teenagers.

“But it can be alarming for mum and dad who might not know how to help when things go wrong.

“Information and advice on staying safe can be found at www.thinkuknow.co.uk – our education programme designed to help protect children and young people from sexual abuse and exploitation.”

Contact ChildLine on 0800 1111 or visit www.childline.org.uk for free confidential advice and support.