Teenagers sending each other explicit images of themselves is becoming “quite normal”, the National Crime Agency (NCA) has warned.
The Agency commented that reports of child protection issues linked to sexting are, on average, received once a day by its child safety arm, known as CEOP Command.
The NCA has done research into the issue to find out why young people send such messages, as well as what the messages mean to them.
Zoe Hilton, Head of Safeguarding at CEOP Command, 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.”
The NCA said the reports include issues like a recipient forwarding a message to others, an inappropriate image being posted online, or a young person being blackmailed by a stranger.
The NSPCC also voiced concerns about sexually explicit messages, cautioning: “Children can send sexual images of themselves in an instant and often don’t really think about the consequences”.
Ann Coffey MP said last year: “Sexting, selfies, Instagram and the like have given rise to new social norms in changed expectations of sexual entitlement, and with it a confused understanding of what constitutes consent.”
She made the comments in a report into the sexual exploitation of children in parts of Greater Manchester.
Talk to children
In 2014 Lorna Naylor, an anti-bullying coordinator, said parents need to talk to their children about the issue.
“It may feel awkward but, as a parent, it’s important to explain to your child the risks of sexting, how to stay safe and that they can talk to you if something ever makes them feel scared or uncomfortable”, she commented.
Zoe Hilton told MPs last year that celebrities are causing a sharp rise in the number of children sending explicit messages.
Speaking to the Commons Education Committee, she said young people are imitating adults’ behaviour but warned that they may be unaware of the dangerous repercussions of sharing the pictures.