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13 February 2018, 08:38 | Updated: 13 February 2018, 08:41
Young people in Dorset are being warned that they lose control of a sexual image, if they share it with someone.
Police are starting a campaign about the risks of sexting, after reports involving under-18s almost tripled last year.
Dorset Police, Devon & Cornwall Police and their Police and Crime Commissioners are educating people under the age of 18 about the consequences of 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 - including selfies. However, officers' primary concern is to avoid criminalising young people where it is not appropriate, which means education and awareness is key to keeping young people safe.
Sexting in under 18s is an increasing issue which is reflected nationally. In 2017 there were 101 reports of sexting in Dorset, an increase from 38 reports in 2016, which is likely due to an increased awareness of sexting.
Superintendent Matt Lawler, Head of the Alliance Prevention Department, said:
"Education and safeguarding is at the forefront of all we do with young people as police forces. 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. 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."
Dorset's Youth Services Operational Manager, Ian Ison, said:
"Our 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 prevent any harmful outcomes and keep young people safe.
"Young people need to remember; when you press send, you're not just breaking the law, you lose control of that image, where it goes on the internet and who sees it."
Dorset Police and Crime Commissioner Martyn Underhill said:
"Growing up can be challenging and filled with various social pressures. Young people may think that sexting is harmless. Some may not even consider the consequences at all, but the reality is that sending indecent images can leave young people vulnerable to blackmail and even a criminal record.
"Teens must feel empowered and confident enough to make safer choices. In addition to increasing the resources available to our Safer Schools and Communities Team, I fully support this campaign which aims to ensure that the next generation is better informed of the dangers of sexting."
Advice for parents around 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 by visiting dorset.police.uk/sexting
- Young people can get more information, with links to help and support, by visiting www.dorset.police.uk/sexting
- Further information and advice for professionals can also be found here: https://www.dorset.police.uk/neighbourhood-policing/safe-schools-communities-team/online-safety-education/sextingcsesexual-content-online-safety/