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Thousands of children, including a boy aged five, have been investigated for sexting, the BBC has learned. Nearly children under the age of 12 have been spoken to by police in the last three years in England and Wales. Figures obtained by the BBC show more than 4, cases since where children have taken explicit pictures of themselves and sent them to others.
It is illegal to possess, take or distribute sexual images of someone who is under 18, including of yourself. The five-year-old, from County Durham, was spoken to by officers of Durham Constabulary last year. He is the youngest person to be investigated for sexting by police forces in England and Wales who responded to a BBC Newcastle request for information.
The force's DCI Steve Thubron said sexting issues were dealt with on a case by case basis, with a focus on safeguarding children. He said incidents were recorded in line with national crime recording standards. The most common age of those involved in sexting is 13 or A year-old boy - only just at the age of criminal responsibility - has been cautioned by Northumbria Police for sexting.
The boy sent a sexual image of himself to an year-old child using Oovoo - a free social media video and image sharing app. Greater Manchester Police recorded the highest of child sexters with cases looked into - including four seven-year-olds and four eight-year-olds.
Even if isn't prosecuted for sending, distributing or possessing an indecent image or video, once it has been sent, it is no longer in the sender's control. If the content is then posted on a public social mediait could be viewed by friends and family, or potential employers.
Many children have spoken of instances where an image has been shared with a girlfriend or boyfriend, only for the image to then be circulated more widely. Kerry Smith of Plan International UKwhich works for children's rights, told the BBC's Victoria Derbyshire programme : "Girls are being pressured - sexting is a gendered issue - more girls are being asked to share. When they do sharethe girls are shamed, not the boys who oovoo sexting holding the phones or the pictures or asking for them. They want that knowledge shared with their children and we've got to make sure that's what's happening in our schools," she said.
Natalie Smith educates children about issues including sexting through a theatre group. She said young people believe the phone is their personal, locked property, but actually it's often the parent who is liable for its content because they pay the bill. The National Police Chiefs' Council's lead for child protection, Chief Constable Simon Bailey, said while police took a "common sense approach" it was important not to view it as harmless teenage behaviour. Porn 'desensitising young people'.
Sexting among unders 'skyrocketing'. Schools 'should teach pupils about porn'. She said education was key. Children can talk to Line counsellor 24 hours a day on 11 11 or in an online chat.
Parents or carers concerned their child is being contacted by adults as a result of having shared sexual imagery should report it to the NCA or Ceop. Related Topics. More on this story. Published 15 June Published 22 March Published 27 February Related Internet Links.
NSPCC on sexting.Oovoo sexting
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