A ChildLine survey of 13-18 year olds found that young people are often taking significant risks by making and sending sexual images of themselves on the Internet or through mobile phones – this is known as “sexting”.
- 60 per cent said they had been asked for a sexual image or video of themselves
- 40 per cent said they had created an image or video of themselves
- 25 per cent said they had sent an image or video of themselves to someone else
In response to this ChildLine have created their first ever app (in partnership with the Internet Watch Foundation) called “Zipit”, designed to help young people diffuse the pressure on them to send an explicit image. The app offers witty images to send instead of explicit ones and provides advice on how to engage in safe chat and what to do if you feel threatened, or if an image becomes public.
Peter Liver, Director of ChildLine Services, said:
“In contrast to the scale of the problem, few young people are calling ChildLine to talk about the issue, whether for fear of being judged or being reported to the authorities. Most common contacts to ChildLine are when the issue has escalated beyond their control.
“It is essential we are able to support young people to talk to ChildLine before an issue escalates but also that we are able to help them to deal with removing images from online.
“The sharing of these images does not necessarily happen in isolation, it can be related to other online issues such as cyber bullying and draw from influences such as celebrity and easy access of online pornography.
“With the constant rise in smart technology being made available to young people, the self-generating and sharing of sexually explicit images is not a ‘fad’ that will go away.
“We know that threatening young people with the consequences of their actions is not the most impactful way to engage them, in a similar way as telling them not to drink or smoke.
“The app means we are providing young people with a tool to help them deal with or remove the pressure to engage in it.”
The NSPCC is complementing the ChildLine initiative by providing advice to parents and carers on what they can do to advise and support their children in relation to “sexting”. As a parent, it is important to understand the risks so that you can talk to your child about how to stay safe and what to do if they ever feel scared or uncomfortable – visit the NSPCC website to find out more.
Warwickshire County Council’s Respect Yourself Campaign also has information on “sexting”, click here to read more.