Guidance for Sexting and ‘Bait out’ Groups: January 2019
In our continued efforts to support our young people to be ’Safe, Ready, Respectful’ we would like to raise awareness of the online risks when sharing images. There is a growing pattern nationally on social media sites where sexual images of children and sexual gossip about individuals are being shared with large groups of people.
So-called ‘Bait out’ pages or groups are being set up on social media sites and local young people are encouraged to share images and talk about other young people to shame and bully them.
This can be due to an increase in ‘self-generated indecent images’; images that may have been taken by young people as a result of ‘sexting’ or sharing ‘nude selfies’ between friends or as part of a relationship.
Although ‘sexting’ can be seen by young people as harmless, creating or sharing indecent images of a child (someone below the age of 18) is illegal, even if the person doing it is themselves a child. A young person will be breaking the law if they:
- Take an explicit (nude or nearly nude) photo or video of themselves or a friend if they are below the age of 18.
- Share an explicit image or video of a child, even if it’s shared between children of the same age.
- Possess, download or store an explicit image or video of a child, even if the child gave their permission for it to be created.
Whilst the police do not wish to unnecessarily criminalise young people, this could potentially affect a child’s reputation, education and future employment prospects, for example if they are named on a crime report or receive a caution or other criminal sanction. Most importantly however, taking, sharing or receiving these images can also have a long-lasting impact on a child’s emotional health and wellbeing. For example, it may cause emotional distress, increase the risk of them receiving negative comments and bullying, and could also place them at risk of abuse and exploitation.
We wish to raise the awareness of this trend with parents/carers, as they often supply mobile phones and computer devices to their children and, as they may hold the contract to those phones or devices, they are often the first point of contact when police investigate criminal offences. The purpose of raising the issue with parents is to encourage them to engage with their child about the risks of this activity online, and expose the risks involved in this type of behaviour and of what could be a criminal offence. We also want to enable parents to safeguard their children from harm. Shared images can often lead to bullying or exploitation of their child.
Advice and information for parents
• The NSPCC has information and advice about sexting available on its website: www.nspcc.org.uk/preventing-abuse/keeping-children-safe/sexting/
• NCA-CEOP has produced a film resource for parents and carers to help them prevent their children coming to harm through sharing sexual imagery: www.thinkuknow.co.uk/parents/Support-tools/Films-to-watch-with-your-children/Exposed_subtitled/
• Childnet have information and advice about sexting available on its website: www.thinkuknow.co.uk/14_plus/need-advice/selfies-and-sexting/