Selfies, Sexting and Sextortion

This week there have been a string of reminders in the news about the risks young people are exposed to through selfies, sexting and sextortion.

Just a week ago, news reports announced that the College of Policing was advising that not all cases of sexting should be reported as a crime. To avoid criminalising young people for inappropriate but generally naive behaviour, the report suggested that a ‘common sense’ approach be taken particularly in cases where the images are self-generated or obtained with consent. While the new advice has been largely well received, it remains to be seen how this will protect those involved, when a self-generated image gets shared beyond it’s intended recipient for example – and who has the responsibility for deciding what should and shouldn’t be reported.

A few days on, and a new online challenge emerged – the one finger challenge. This, the latest in the ‘online challenge’ genre, encourages people to take naked selfies in a mirror, using one finger to cover up their privates. It’s easy to see how this ‘challenge’ could be attractive to young people. It’s also easy to see how it can lead to regrettable and potentially upsetting situations for those involved at a later stage. There would no doubt be a considerable amount of peer pressure to get involved in the ‘challenge’, which could also lead to bullying for both those who do and do not take part.

24 hours later, Jeremy Hunt announced to the Commons Health Committee on suicide prevention efforts, that children should be blocked from texting sexually explicit images by social media companies. Mr Hunt urged technology companies to use software to identify and prevent inappropriate images being sent by under 18s. This recommendation has come under fire, suggesting that this form or ‘censorship’ could do more harm than good. And surely, this blinkered approach to an out-right ban on sexting for under 18s conflicts with the earlier advice from the College of Policing, who seemingly have accepted that sexting is part of current youth culture.

And lastly, on the same day, the National Crime Agency (NCA) reported that sextortion has increased. Sextortion is a form of blackmail, where victims are coerced into performing sex acts on webcams by fraudsters. The victims are then blackmailed with the footage. A substantial proportion of victims are aged between 11 and 20. This is a relatively new crime, but has already been linked to four suicides in the UK including one teenage boy. In response, the NCA have launched a campaign to give advice to actual and potential victims.

So, once again, these varying news items have brought to the forefront the issues surrounding the sharing of personal images online. The suggestions that have been made are likely to have mixed reaction and indeed mixed success. But ultimately, they all remind us that teaching children about these risks, must be embedded in online safety education.



Opinions will vary on the matters raised in these news reports and we welcome your thoughts using the comments section below.

Written by E-safety Support on December 02, 2016 09:46

Sexting in schools and colleges

UKCCIS Report: Responding to incidents and safeguarding young people


YPSI ReportIn August, the UK Council for Child Internet Safety (UKCCIS) released a guidance document for schools on dealing with ‘Youth Produced Sexual Imagery’ (YPSI) or more commonly known as ‘sexting’.

Many children and young people send inappropriate images as they see it as a form of ‘flirting’. Many do not realise that it is against the law to create, send and share indecent images of a person under the age of 18. The danger is that these images will be harnessed by adults and once they are in the possession of unscrupulous individuals, young people could be coerced into sending more images.

The 61 page document looks at the criteria that schools or colleges need to consider before making a referral to the police or social care about an incident. The guidance has been written in consultation with a number of agencies including the National Police Chiefs Council and Department of Education. The aim of the guidance is to support the Designated Safeguarding Leads(DSL) in their decision making when dealing with a YPSI incident. In recent months a number of police forces have highlighted concerns of schools referring incidents which do not constitute a police investigation.

In brief, the key points of the guidance are:

  • Any YPSI incident in a school should be treated as a safeguarding issue.

  • Schools may respond to a YPSI incident without involving the police.

  • Criminal justice response should only be considered proportionate in certain circumstances.

  • All police forces have a new charging code (‘Outcome 21’) which can be used for YPSI incidents. This new code is intended not to criminalise young people, especially if they are involved in a minor YPSI incident. The reasoning behind this, is that if they want to work with children, it will not show up on a DBS check.

  • In the majority of cases, parents should be informed of their child being involved in a YPSI incident.

  • Schools should update their policies and procedures in light of the new guidance

  • ALL staff should receive training related to the YPSI guidance.

  • In the vast majority of cases, staff should not view any YPSI images/video and delete them from a young persons smartphone.

The guidance offers information for schools on teaching about ‘sexting’ in the curriculum and has links to different resources which can be incorporated into PHSE schemes of work. In addition, there are sample questions that can be used with young people involved in YPSI incidents. The guidance also provides information for schools and colleges on appropriate measures for deleting ‘indecent’ images and ways in which to talk to students involved in a YPSI incident.

The guidance is important for primary, secondary and post 16 settings and DSL’s need to look at updating their policies and training staff on the new guidance and should use it in conjunction with the updated ‘Keeping Children Safe In Education’.

The full report can be downloaded here



E-safety Support Premium Plus members can access resources on Sexting and SRE from their dashboard. Additional resources on Healthy Relationships can be obtained from our sister site - Teaching Resources Support,

This article was written by E-safety Consultant, Tim Pinto, who is currently running a series of YPSI Briefings around the Yorkshire region. To find out more, visit www.esafetyoffice.co.uk

Written by Tim Pinto on September 29, 2016 11:24

4 Ways to Address Sexting in the Classroom

Parent Training 1The headlines like to shock, 'teenagers in nude pic row', 'small town in teen sexting epidemic' ...again today it's being widely reported that in a recent nationwide study a mere 1 out of 5 girls are classed as enjoying a healthy self esteem, social media being in the dock yet again as the root cause. Are we to believe the hype and allow ourselves a knee jerk reaction to this growing problem or see it as not dissimilar to the ' show me yours and I'll show you mine' game from youth?

Firstly we need to understand why it's so popular even with the knowledge that in some circumstances it is against the law. 'Media hype' is correct in its suggestion that it’s practiced by a high number of teens. So, why is this the case? There are many factors that drive this behaviour...teenage behaviour experts have spoken of the natural instinct within young people to behave in a risky fashion; to explore their sexuality, discover their adult selves, break rules, feel 'naughty'... alongside this, the impact of the humble Smartphone and its never-ending options, like Snapchat and the instant Photoshop opportunities can't be underestimated. But, I think most of all it’s because of the good old craving to be told you're attractive and to feel desired, narcissism in all its glory - of which we are all not immune. All at a time when hormones are raging and there's this burning ambition to just 'fit in' and be popular.

If we delve a little deeper into other studies centred around the subject, there are other interesting finds that give us a deeper insight into the teenage mind, which fuel my ' PSHE teacher brain'. According to stats, 3 out of 4 teenagers truly believe that any pictures they send that are considered sexy or sexual will only ever be seen by the recipient. Naive perhaps, but we have to see it from their viewpoint - that it’s being sent to a person they see as being trustworthy and because they are still learning about relationships, their inexperience can be their undoing. Rather than displaying a cavalier attitude to their privacy and decency, is what is actually happening within the realms of 'normal' sexual experimentation? The survey goes on to state that out of the teens who partake in sexting, they perceive what they are doing as not being wrong and that it’s their choice... and apparently I discovered that cases of pictures being shared without permission were rare and unusual. However I'm sure that there are many cases that aren't reported due to the nature of the problem and the fact they would not want the police to get involved, or parents to find out.

I see the problems with sexting as being when young people are coerced or pressured to take and send sexual photos of themselves with the direct intension of being shared and their privacy abused. This is where the dangers lie with this issue and it can leave vulnerable individuals, normally girls, becoming victims of truly horrible experiences that can have far reaching consequences into adulthood.

So, yes, education is badly needed to make young people aware of all sides of this issue, including the law and where they stand should they take a picture, send it or worse share it. Ultimately, teenagers will always have a natural inclination toward this kind of behaviour, but at the very least we can be sure that they will be making decisions with all the facts and their complexities explained to them.

Below are some suggestions to the help you quickly get to the heart of the issue during lessons and spark classroom debate.
1. Be clear...Respect the law! Respect yourself and respect others (you could be breaking the law if you share)
2. Understand the consequences of your actions, imagine your 'worst case scenario' - think twice before pressing send. Question your actions.
3. Get the students to ask themselves 'what do I want to achieve from this?' ...could I get my desired outcome another way other than sending sexual pictures?
4. Finally, be realistic. Will sending pictures really bag the boyfriend/girlfriend of your dreams? The chances are probably not. If they respect you they will not ask you to do it. Never be talked into doing it!

If you would like to share your thoughts and ideas on how to tackle this topic with your class, please use the comment section below. E-safety Support Premium and Premium Plus members can also download related assembly and lesson plans from your dashboard.

Written by Vicki Dan on November 13, 2014 11:42


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