Schoolchildren in Nottinghamshire have been warned that sending sexually explicit pictures via text and social media could lead to a criminal prosecution.
The police sent a letter to all schools in the county, citing the recent case of a teenager who received a caution after ‘sexting’ her boyfriend.
In another case, a teenage boy was cautioned after he took an intimate photo of himself and sent it to his friends.
The police warned that any child aged ten or over can be “arrested, charged and dealt with” for the offence of distributing an indecent image of a child.
Detective Sergeant Jan Rusdale of the Nottinghamshire force said that young people could face being placed on the sex offenders’ register for sexting.
“We just want to get the message out there that this is a very serious offence. We need parents and children to realise this”.
Police highlighted that removing images from the internet is almost impossible after they have been uploaded.
Lorna Naylor, Nottinghamshire County Council’s 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 said.
A ChildLine survey last year suggested that 60 per cent of 13-18 year olds had been asked for a sexual image or video of themselves.
And 40 per cent said they had created a sexual image or video of themselves.
Gaynor Birnie, ChildLine service manager for the East Midlands, commented: “The sharing of self-generated sexually explicit images or videos by mobile phone or online is now commonplace amongst young people to the point that it is considered ‘mundane’.”