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WATCH: Reports of sexting to police triple in two years

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Published by the Pirate FM News Team at 11:02am 12th February 2018. (Updated at 4:44pm 12th February 2018)

Police in Cornwall and Devon are dealing with more than one report of sexting a day.

Cases where under-18s send or receive sexual, naked or semi-naked images have tripled in two years.

In the 12 months leading up to October, our force handled 440. That is up from 115 during the previous 12 months.

Together with the Police and Crime Commissioner for Devon, it is launching a campaign to educate young people about the consequences.

It comes as a survey reveals three quarters of parents in the south-west do not know what their child is posting on social media.

What is sexting?

Sexting is the term used for the sending or receiving of sexual, naked or semi-naked images or videos which can be taken by a young person of themselves (i.e. a selfie), or by others.  

It is illegal for anyone to take, send, receive or share these types of images of anyone under 18 – included selfies.  Devon & Cornwall Police’s primary concern is to avoid criminalising young people where it is not appropriate, which is why we have launched this campaign to educate young people and their parents.

Reports of under 18s sexting in Devon and Cornwall have nearly tripled in recent years, from 115 reports between November 2015 and October 2016, to 440 reports between November 2016 and October 2017.

Sexting in under 18s is an increasing issue which is reflected nationally, not just in Devon and Cornwall.

However, it is largely unreported and therefore the true number of sexting incidents is unknown. 

Despite this, it is still reassuring to know that the majority of young people are not doing it.

The increase in figures has highlighted why it is important to educate young people about the potential consequences of sexting and encourage parents to have open and honest conversations with their children about it.

On Monday the 12th February, messages will go out to parents on Facebook and Twitter, and to young people on Instagram and Snapchat.

Printed materials will also be utilised to extend the reach of the safety messages outside of the digital world.

This builds on the work that officers and PCSOs have already been doing with schools and youth groups.

 Superintendent Head of Prevention Department, Matt Lawler from Devon & Cornwall and Dorset Police, said: “Education and safeguarding is at the forefront of all we do with young people as a police force. 

"We want to re-affirm to young people and parents that we are here to help when you need us. 

“Technology has become ever more advanced and available. This is why our sexting campaign is of such importance. 

"By educating young people about the law around sexting and the potential consequences of sending these types of images, we can help them to avoid making a decision they later regret.

“Devon & Cornwall Police’s primary concern is to avoid criminalising young people where it is not appropriate and we hope that by educating young people about Sexting we can avoid this altogether.

“Our main message to young people is this: when you press send, you lose control of that image – where it ends up on the internet and who sees it – you’re not just breaking the law.”

Alison Hernandez, Police and Crime Commissioner for Devon, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly said: “Sexting is a growing concern as most young people now have, or have access to, a mobile device.

"It is important that young people understand the law surrounding sexting and the consequences it can have.

"As a parent myself, I feel it is also vital that parents and guardians have an understanding of the topic and are provided with the correct tools and information to proactively talk to their children about the issue.

"As an office we are committed to working with young people and engaging with them around such issues.”

Advice for parents about sexting:

Talk to your children about sexting, the law and the potential dangers of sexting:

  • 9/10 selfies end up somewhere else on the internet - when you press send, you lose control
  • It’s illegal to take, send or receive ‘sexts’ of anyone under 18, including selfies!
  • Not all teenagers are doing it, even if that’s what they tell their friends
  • If they’ve done it and it’s gone wrong, speak to an adult they trust

If it has happened:

  • Stay calm and support your child
  • Take the device, don’t screenshot, don’t forward on
  • Speak to your child’s school, they have the power to help
  • Remember: it is illegal, but the police will always help young people and safeguard them in the first instance

Where and how to seek help:

  • Parents and carers can get more information, with links to help and support, from Devon & Cornwall Police by visiting dc.police.uk/advice/parenting
  • Young people can get more information, with links to help and support, from Devon & Cornwall Police by visiting its website.
  • Further information and advice for professionals can also be found at dcdhub.org/sexting or by signing up to the police newsletter

Watch more about the dangers of sexting...

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