Rise in ‘sexting’ leads to increased calls to Childline

Date: 23rd August 2016
Category: Protection of privacy

Childline has reported that it receives at least four calls a day from children worried about sexting - a 15% increase on last year.

Around 1,400 calls are made to counsellors each year from children in Scotland about sharing their naked pictures and videos online. Childline states that not all the calls related to young people have shared naked images: some include friends concerned about peers who have been affected or from children complaining about being pressurised to share nude pictures.

A UK-wide survey of 1,000 parents - with more than a quarter of the survey's participants living in Scotland - has been undertaken by the NSPCC. The NSPCC has highlighted how most parents are reluctant to tackle the issue of 'sexting' with their children. Despite almost three quarters believing that sending explicit text messages is 'always' harmful, six in ten have not discussed it with their children. Almost half of parents do not know that it is illegal for anyone under 18 to take nude selfies. For most parents, the biggest fear was about their child taking a nude or partially nude picture and then losing control of that image.

Sexting leaves children open to bullying and blackmail and the NSPCC has issued advice for parents and guardians on how to approach the issue.

Matt Forde, head of service for NSPCC Scotland said that parents should be enabled to pick up on the clear concern among children and learn what to do if their child shares an explicit image of themselves or another child. He also said that sharing nude selfies can put young people at risk of bullying by peers or being targeted by adult sex offenders, "so it's vital that parents talk to their children and that young people feel empowered to say no to sexting requests."

The NSPCC has issued the following guidance for parents and carers:

  • Reassure them that they aren't alone;
  • Listen and offer support - they're probably upset and need your help and advice, not criticism;
  • Try not to shout or make them feel like it's their fault;
  • Don't ask questions like "why have you done it" as this may stop them from opening up to you;
  • Discuss the problem and the wider pressures that they may face, to help them to understand what's happened;
  • Assure them that you'll do all you can to help;
  • Remind them that they can always talk to Childline or another trusted adult if they aren't comfortable talking directly to you.

A number of media outlets have covered this issue including: