YOUNGSTERS are being urged to think of the dangers of sexting, during a month-long campaign by police.
A recent survey of young people, carried out by Thames Valley Police, shows that a quarter of the 219 13-14-year-olds asked had received a sexual image and almost half believed that youngsters were most likely to get involved in sexting while in Year 7.
The force released the results of the survey today (Monday) as part of its #ProtectYourWorld campaign and to highlight the issues surrounding sharing explicit images online or via text.
The results showed that the most likely reasons for young people to send sexts was ‘to take your relationship to the next level’ (47%) and ‘peer pressure from a boyfriend/girlfriend’ (45%).
A total of 46 respondents (21%) said they thought young people sent sexts to stop their boyfriend or girlfriend from ‘dumping them’.
Det Supt Nick John, head of force intelligence and specialist operations, said: “While the internet is a fantastic resource for young people, there are risks involved in being online, varying from bullying, harassment and stalking through to child sexual exploitation.
“We are focusing on sexting as this is a very current issue, which has grown rapidly and can be misunderstood.
“Young people may see sexting as harmless and while we do not wish to criminalise them, taking, sharing or receiving an image of this nature is illegal and can lead to serious consequences, including blackmail, bullying, harassment, which can have a long-lasting negative impact. It can also make young people a target of sex offenders.
“We hope that by opening up the conversation and raising awareness, we will encourage young people to think about their behaviour – and parents and carers to enter into conversation with their children about it too.”
The #ProtectYourWorld campaign is running throughout September in a bid to raise awareness of online crime and encourage people to protect themselves.
As part of this school liaison officers will be highlighting issues surrounding sexting and the force is encouraging young people to think about their actions with messages on posters, video clips and social media.
There is also an online safety competition for under 18s, to encourage young people to share their own ideas and advice about staying safe online. An iPad Mini 2 and a Chromebook will be presented to the winner and runner-up.