SHOCKING statistics about children in the West Midlands area being investigated for sexting have been revealed by police in an attempt to raise awareness about this issue ahead of tomorrow’s Internet Safety Day.
Last year a total of 74 children, aged from ten to 17 years old, were investigated by West Mercia Police for sexting activities – sending or sharing explicit or naked pictures of themselves on social media or text messaging services to others.
DCI Sean Paley, from Warwickshire and West Mercia Police’s specialist operations unit, said: “Sexting may be considered harmless fun by some young people but this could not be further from the truth.
“Once an image has been sent the sender has no control of where it ends up and who sees it.
“There can be huge ramifications, leaving people vulnerable to blackmail, bullying and harm, as well as the fact that children who are sexting may actually be committing criminal offences.”
In response to this and in connection to Safer Internet Day, police will be championing the importance of staying safe in the virtual world by talking to children at schools throughout the area.
Safer Internet Day, which aims to highlight the importance of staying safe online generally, is intended to encourage people to improve their knowledge and understanding of how to protect themselves in cyber space.
Police will also be highlighting the dangers of sexting to teenagers through social media campaign, #becybersmart, which asks them to pause before they post something online which they may later regret.
In addition to sexting, the campaign message ‘The Virtual World Has Real Life Consequences’ also includes shopping, dating and socialising online.
Simple tips such as checking social media privacy settings, remembering that once a picture is sent or posted control of where it ends up is lost, and knowing that once a picture is on the internet it can be copied by anybody, may help reduce the number of people regretting their actions.
Police are also urging parents and carers to be aware of what their children are doing on the internet, the sites they are visiting and who they are talking to, and advising them how to offer support.
Online resources and advice can be found at www.thinkuknow.co.uk, www.getsafeonline.org and www.ceop.police.uk Go to www.westmercia.police.uk/becybersmart for more details about the social media campaign.