Sexting concerns grow among south west teenagers

25 July 2019, 17:23 | Updated: 25 July 2019, 18:14

Devon & Cornwall Police, Exeter City Community Trust Exeter and Exeter City Football Club are launching a campaign to educate young people under the age of 18 about the dangers of sexting.

Sexting - or youth produced sexual imagery (YPSI) - are the terms used for the taking and sending or receiving of sexual, naked or semi-naked images or videos of a young person taken by a themselves (i.e. a selfie) or others. 

It is illegal for anyone, of any age, to take, send, receive or share images of anyone under 18 – including selfies.  Victims and perpetrators can be male or female. Devon & Cornwall Police’s primary concern is to avoid criminalising young people where it is not appropriate, which is why they are working to educate both young people and their parents.

Sexting among under 18s is an increasing issue which is reflected nationally. However, it is largely unreported and therefore the true number of sexting incidents is unknown

Despite this, it is important to state that the majority of young people are not doing it. 

If something has gone wrong and a person has lost control of an image, it is important that they speak to someone they trust.

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

Messages will go out to parents via Facebook and Twitter, and to young people via Instagram.  Print materials will also be used to extend the reach of the safety messages outside of the digital world. 

Information will also be shared via Exeter City Community Trust at the Exeter City Football Club headquarters during the club’s summer holiday activities for young people.

Superintendent of Local Policing Commander, Exeter, East and Mid-Devon, Matt Lawler, said: “Education and safeguarding is at the forefront of all we do with young people as a police force.  We want to reassure young people and their parents that we are here to help when you need us. 

“We also provide non-judgemental assistance to those who have posted sexual imagery.

“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. The best way to stay safe is not to send images in the first place.”


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, they should 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
  • Remember: it is illegal, but the police and other partners such as Safer Internet UK 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
  • Young people can get more information, with links to help and support, from Devon & Cornwall Police by visiting
  • Further information and advice for professionals can be found at or by signing up to our newsletter