Young people and parents across Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent are being reminded of the dangers of ‘sexting’ in a new campaign.
The ‘Say no to Sexting’ campaign is being run by Staffordshire County Council and partner agencies and launches as part of Safer Internet Day on 9 February 2016.
The two-week campaign aims to raise awareness of child sexual exploitation and in particular the dangers for young people around sexting. A brand new website at www.knowaboutcse.co.uk has information and advice for both young people and parents. The website also includes access to a new App to help young people say no, along with useful videos and resources for parents, professionals and schools.
Sexting is when someone sends or receives a sexually explicit text, image or video, usually in a text message or through other messaging services. Sexting is on the rise, yet most young people think that it’s harmless fun. Not only is it illegal but also puts young people at a much higher risk of being sexually exploited online or offline.
John Wood, Joint Chair of the Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent Children Safeguarding Board said: “We have made great advances with our partners in protecting children, bringing together public and voluntary agencies to tackle child sexual exploitation.
“Sexting’ is an activity we have become increasingly aware of amongst young people and many may not realise that what they are doing is illegal or that it may be potentially harmful to them in the future. So many think that it’s a normal part of a relationship and just don’t understand that images can end up all over the Internet, and this can lead to them being bullied, exploited or blackmailed. Many young people also don’t know they could be breaking the law.
“We all have a part to play in helping young people stay safe online and I would urge everyone, especially parents, to visit the new website at www.knowaboutcse.co.uk/parents to find out more about sexting and pick up a few tips to start the conversation with their child.”
18-year-old Katie O’Brien has helped develop the campaign and has starred in one of the sexting videos made especially for the campaign. Katie said: “When we first got involved in the campaign we didn’t realise how serious an issue sexting really was. We knew it went on amongst some young people, but from research we did, we quickly discovered that the issue was much more serious than we ever could of imagined. We really enjoyed the project and making the videos. We hope that young people and their parents will watch them so they know about the consequences of sexting and avoid getting caught up.”
Mike Lawrence, Cabinet Member for Children at Staffordshire County Council added: “For young people it’s about knowing the consequences of sexting and staying in control of their online conversations. For parents it’s knowing how to start conversations with their children to help keep them safe – and there’s lots of helpful advice on the campaign website. It’s also great that lots of schools are joining in the campaign on Safer Internet Day and I would encourage them to download the materials and resources from the website.”
Louise Rees, Stoke-on-Trent City Council’s Executive Director – People, said: “Child sexual exploitation can have devastating consequences on people’s lives and raising awareness of aspects of it like ‘sexting’ is incredibly important. The Say No To Sexting campaign is aimed at educating young people and their parents about these dangers, and how to stay safe.”
Staffordshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner Matthew Ellis said: “Sexting is a serious concern because it leaves children and young people in danger of being sexually exploited. That’s why this campaign is so important. I’d urge parents to use the new website to get some practical tips so they can help their children to say ‘no’ to sexting.”
The campaign is being supported by the partners of Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent Safeguarding Children Boards, including Staffordshire County Council, Stoke-on-Trent City Council, Staffordshire Police, the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner, health organisations and schools. The new website also has advice and guidance on other ways to keep children safe online.
Anyone concerned about ‘sexting’ can go to the website at www.knowaboutcse.co.uk, talk to an adult they trust or call NSPCC on 0800 800 5000, it is free and available 24 hours a day and the number won’t appear on a telephone bill. If you think that your child has been forced to send or receive an indecent image or video, or is engaging with them inappropriately you can contact Staffordshire Police on 101 or report it online to the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEO) at www.ceop.police.uk