A Scottish children’s charity is hoping to establish a joint pilot project with the police to tackle the growing problem of “sexting” in Scotland.
“Sexting” – the practice of sending sexually explicit images via text, email and social networking websites – has become an increasing concern amidst other types of sexual exploitation of youngsters on the internet.
The news comes following recent research by Plymouth University, which found that 40 per cent of 14 to 15-year-olds did not see anything inappropriate about a topless photo.
The pilot is being set up by Stop it Now! Scotland (SNS), which campaigns against child abuse, along with Lothian and Borders Police, Barnardo’s Scotland and the Scottish Crime and Enforcement Agency.
Initially it will involve SNS workers visiting children who have been reported to the police and their parents to talk through the impact of such behaviour. If successful, it will be rolled out across Scotland.
Children’s charities say they have seen a rising number of referrals regarding the issue over the past year.
Richard Piggin, deputy chief executive of charity Beatbullying, said: “The most worrying thing for us is when a young person seems to think it is normal behaviour to take a naked photo and send it to your boyfriend or girlfriend.”
Professor Andy Phippen, from Plymouth University, believes that celebrity sexting scandals had boosted its popularity among teenagers: “When celebrities are doing it, obviously it moves more into the teen population.
“But there is a huge amount of peer influence in this area as well.”
A study by the London School of Economics and Political Science found around one in nine children in the UK aged 11-16 have seen or received sexual messages online.
It also reported that almost 50 per cent of parents were unaware that their children had seen or received such messages.