The number of under-18s engaging in ‘sexting’ has soared in recent years, according to troubling new figures.
Cases involving children possessing or sending sexual images of themselves or others have more than doubled in the past three years. Police say that children as young as five have been investigated.
Data from police forces in England and Wales reveals that 6,328 incidents took place between 2016 and 2017 – a rate of 17 a day.
Sexting is defined as “the exchange of sexual messages or self-generated sexual images or videos through mobile phones or the internet”.
It is illegal to create, possess, or distribute sexual images of children, even if the images are taken by the children themselves.
The NSPCC described the rise as “extremely worrying” and said it is vital that parents “talk to children about the dangers of sexting”.
‘Worrying upward trend’
Norfolk’s Chief Constable Simon Bailey also expressed his concern at the rapid increase.
“There is a worrying upward trend in children sharing sexual images, particularly regarding children who pass on indecent images of others. Sharing and possessing these images is against the law.
“Once an image is shared with others it can cause deep embarrassment and distress.”
Bailey added that police have seen “harmful sexual behaviour among children accessing porn” as they are led to believe that this is what “a normal relationship looks like”.
‘Huge moral concern’
Shortly after the figures were announced, a Church of England bishop warned that online porn is giving boys a “warped” view of women.
The Bishop of Chelmsford, Stephen Cottrell, spoke of the “huge moral concern” of pornography being “available today in the pocket of every 15-year-old boy”.
“The persistent and pervasive viewing of pornography can lead to the acceptance of all sorts of violence and unhealthy notions about sex and relationships, and men having extremely warped and degrading attitudes to women.”
The bishop went on to call on the Government to take steps to “protect our children” by regulating online porn.