Children as young as twelve found ‘sexting’ [ITV, 09/12/2015]

Children as young as 12 are sending explicit messages of a sexual nature, police in Northamptonshire have said.

Officers are investigating 24 separate cases of ‘sexting’ across the county – the youngest person involved being 12.

They are urging young people to think twice before sending explicit pictures of themselves or posting them on sites such as instagram.

Police are reminding people that one click can have a massive impact 

“It is really important people are aware of the dangers of sharing explicit material online.

“The dissemination of any material depicting nudity or sexual activity involving young people could constitute a criminal offence.

“It may seem like harmless fun at the time but it can have huge emotional consequences for those involved, leaving them vulnerable to blackmail, bullying and harm.

“It’s really important to remember that once an image is online all control of where it ends up is lost.

– Detective Inspector Richard Tompkins.

Here’s why schools should put sexting on the curriculum [The Telegraph, by Allison Pearson, 11/2/2015]

After Christmas, I was using up some leftovers while the Daughter and her friends sat round the kitchen table having one of their marathon toast-fests and sharing stories of their new lives at uni. Sophie said that, at a party, a guy had walked up to her and said: “Hello, gorgeous, I’ve got a huge —. Fancy a —-?”

The other girls fell about, but the laughter sounded obligatory rather than joyful. “You don’t have to put up with that, Sophie, darling,” I found myself saying. “It’s so disrespectful. I hope you told him where to go?”

“Relax, mum,” said my daughter. She wore that stricken, pleading look which means “Oh, God, she’s not going to go off on one of her ‘Suffragettes didn’t go on hunger strike so you could post a picture of your boobs on Snapchat’ lectures, is she?”

The girls started talking about a mutual friend, only 17. Olivia’s charismatic boyfriend was a nightmare, both aggressive and controlling. Olivia kept trying to break free, but each time X reeled her back in. “I think Liv’s scared of him, but she doesn’t want to be by herself,” said Samira. The girls murmured in sympathy. For them, there was only one thing more horrifying than an abusive relationship: being single.

Later, after they’d gone, I told my daughter I was worried about Sophie. Had she really had sex with that tosser who came up to her at a party? “You just don’t get it, mum,” sighed the Daughter. “Sophie’s not really that kind of girl. It’s just if you don’t have sex, you’re a loser. Everyone does it ’cos boys expect you to. Every girl I know’s had some bad experience where it’s got kind of abusive.”

“Even you?’ I said.

“Even me,” she said.

If I was shocked to hear that conversation between lovely, bright young women, I shouldn’t have been. A new study into adolescent relationships has found that hundreds of thousands of teenage girls, some as young as 13, have been coerced into sex or sexual activity by a boyfriend. England came out far worse than other European countries, with two in five girls aged between 13 and 17 suffering sexual coercion of some sort, including rape.

’Twas ever thus, some will shrug. Boy tries to get into Girl’s knickers is as old as heavy petting in the Garden of Eden. The difference now, as pointed out by the University of Bristol’s School for Policy Studies, is the scale of coercion and the number of teenage girls sending and receiving sexual images and texts.

Almost half of 13- to 17-year-olds have “sexted”. Researchers were surprised to discover that many girls said exchanging of explicit images with boys was a “highly positive experience”, adding to the fun of flirting. However, almost all the girls said that the experience turned negative if the boy shared the image with friends, making them feel humiliated.

It made me think of two shamefaced teenage girls I saw on TV the other night. They confessed that they became different characters on social media. You could be a bully, you could be lewd and crude, you could be whoever you wanted to be.

“In space, no one can hear you scream” goes the great line from Alien. Kids seem to believe the same applies to social media. They are seriously mistaken. Teenage courtship rituals, essentially unchanged for decades, have been discarded as our children are handed explosive new toys, which even fully-grown Members of Parliament are too immature to handle.

Boys are literally getting the message that girls are permanently up for it when the truth is girls may just feel under huge social pressure to display their wares without necessarily being ready to hand over the goods. And all this happens without any meaningful human contact.

What a pity the Bristol study didn’t include the experience of boys. “You’d be amazed what girls will do, mum,” my 15-year-old son said to me recently. I feel so sorry for him and his generation. Social media is a lawless Wild West without a sheriff. There is no map to help hormonal youngsters navigate a safe path. If boys end up with a warped view of female sexuality, it’s hardly surprising: if all girls feel obliged to flash their tits to attract a mate, it’s not the sexual freedom their grandmothers wished for. It’s just a more open prison.

Such is the confusion out there they have actually invented something called a “consensual-sex app”, which kids can use to ask their partner’s permission to have sex. Good2Go “allows the sex-initiator to forego outdated modes of courting, like foreplay, or talking to your partner”. Instead, they can hand you their phone and get you to answer a series of questions, including whether you are “Sober”, “Mildly Intoxicated but Good2Go” or “Pretty Wasted”. If you’re Pretty Wasted, the phone will instruct you not to have sex.

Who says romance is dead, St Valentine? Imagine what the Bard would have made of this new intimacy: “Let us not to the marriage of two true sex initiators admit impediment. Love is not love which makes a move when Sex Initiator 1 is pretty wasted.”

Schools should urgently put a new subject on the curriculum: Sex, Self-Respect and Social Media. Young people need to be taught that the same standards apply to your character in the real and the online world.

Finally, to girls and boys aged 13 to 17, a word of advice from your Auntie Allison. Before you press Send, ask yourself one small question: “Would I like my mum and dad to see this photo of me?”

No sexts please, we’re British.

Police warn Welsh pupils over ‘sexting’ [BBC News Wales, 10/2/2015]

The NSPCC is trying to spread the safety message to parents and children

Police are visiting every school in Wales to warn pupils of the dangers of “sexting”.

As well as cutting down on cyberbullying, there are fears young people do not know they could be breaking the law by sending sexual images.

It comes as Safer Internet Day is highlighting online safety.

A new survey found 30% of 11-16-year-olds experienced unkind online behaviour in the last year.

And 75% of youngsters blocked someone.

The ResearchBods study also looked at how much time young people were spending online, with 55% saying they interacted with their closest friends several times an hour.

Police have started warning teenagers of the legal aspects of what they text – and aim to have visited all schools by the end of the year with the “Think Before You Click” message.

PC Richard Norris has been bringing the message to this school in Swansea

One of those going into schools is PC Richard Norris, of South Wales Police.

He said sharing explicit material can be an offence in itself, even if you are not the originator.

“One click can have a massive impact,” he said.

“The knock on effect it has with jobs, career, the embarrassment or even to the extent of someone hurting themselves over it. We want to reduce and stop this.”

The NSPCC has a Share Aware campaign aimed at parents of eight to 12 year olds.

The children’s charity says its own survey in 2013 found 40% of teenagers had created a sexual image or video.

Meanwhile, pupils, teachers and parents are meeting politicians at the Senedd to push for online safety to be taught in schools.

The Welsh government has also organised e-safety awareness raising activities in schools across Wales

First Minister Carwyn Jones said: “While we actively encourage young people to embrace the internet’s huge potential, it’s vitally important they are equipped with the skills and knowledge needed to do it safely and responsibly.”

Prof Shaheen Shariff says children involved in sexting are getting ‘younger and younger’

Author of Sexting and Cyberbullying – Defining the Line for Digitally Empowered Kids

“The research we did recently, which is in my book, found that kids aged 9-12 and then 13-17 don’t quite understand where they cross the line from jokes and flirty fun when sexting or distributing intimate images to where they are actually breaking the law.

“It’s everybody’s responsibility. If it involves classmates there’s an obligation to the school but it’s important that parents are involved.

“We need to start looking at the bigger picture and to look at rape culture, to look more deeply at the roots of cyber bullying and sexting.

“Research has always focused on children’s behaviour online but we need to look at the systemic forms of misogyny, homophobia and discrimination – these are the forms that sexting and cyberbullying are rooted in and adults are the worst models of this.

“Until we address what adults are doing we really can’t blame the kids for copying us.”

Teens urged to ‘think twice’ before posting online [Independent, by Nicola Anderson, 10/2/2015]

Teenagers working on a cyber-bullying project have told how ‘nearly everybody they know’ has been subject to online abuse of some description.

A new report reveals that young people are experiencing greater bullying on social media platforms and are encountering more harmful images and content because they are spending increasing amounts of time online on their smartphones and tablets.

One-in-five children in Ireland say they have been bothered by something online in the past year – double the figure reported in a survey in 2011.

The new Net Children Go Mobile report, launched to mark Safer Internet Day finds that Instagram is the most popular media-sharing platform, with some 42pc of 9-16 year olds using it to share their photos.

Brian O’Neill, Director of Research, Enterprise and Innovation Services at Dublin Institute of Technology, who compiled the report along with Thuy Dinh of DIT, said that young people are doing more of everything online.

“Because internet use is now a much more private experience with less direct parental supervision, parents more than ever need to communicate with their children about their online experiences,” he said. Speaking at the launch at Dublin Castle, Damien English, TD urged young people to “think twice” before they acted on an urge to post something online that might be hurtful.

“Just hold back – think of the impact it might have on somebody’s life,” he said.

Teens from the Dublin City Comhairle na nÓg youth council told the Irish Independent that almost every young person they know has been subjected to some form of online bullying.

Irish Independent