Sexting Warning

CLARE NEGUSSound Telegraph

An alarming increase in sexting among primary school-aged children has prompted a warning to parents to talk to their pre-teens about the dangers of exchanging explicit images.

Children as young as 11 years old are taking, sending and sharing sexual photos and videos using devices, such as mobile phones and tablets, with internet access.

Peel Crime Prevention and Diversity Unit Sergeant Paul Trimble said schools were making constant requests for police to speak to students about the issue.

He said police had given 200 talks in the past 12 months in schools across the Peel District.

“What we have found very concerning are the requests from primary schools relating to their students,” Sgt Trimble said.

He said it appeared the number of students engaging in sexting was increasing.

Perth cyber safety expert Robyn Rishani, founder of Your Kids Online, said sexting could have devastating social and emotional consequences as well as serious legal ramifications.

Anyone under the age of 18 can be charged for taking a sexually explicit photo or video of themselves because they are creating child pornography.

If they send it on to another person, they are distributing child pornography and the person who receives it is then in possession of child pornography.

Under WA’s laws, people convicted of a child pornography offence are listed on the sex offender register - including children and teens.

Sgt Trimble said most kids did not realise the gravity of their actions until the police became involved.

“They (those listed on the sex offender register) would then be placed under some very strict conditions to be able to continue to live in the community.

“This will also have a catastrophic effect socially, future career opportunities and restrict where they can travel throughout the world.”

Ms Rishani said cyber safety education should start at home with open and honest conversations.

“If you give child a device with internet access you need to set rules," she said

“They should not have free reign.

“Kids as young as nine and 10 are using apps that teens use — Snapchat, Instagram and instant messenger.

“They feel it is secure and private when it’s not.

“There’s no such thing as privacy on social media.”

Sgt Trimble said schools were encouraged to nominate a representative to send to a free “Thinkuknow” cyber safety training.

This training is delivered by the Australian Federal Police and enables schools to deliver the training and educate their students on sexting and other cyber-related issues.

“It would also facilitate a schoolwide working relationship, which could also involve parents to address this growing social issue,” he said.

Full details of the course can be found at www.thinkuknow.org.au.

Where to get help

Resources for parents

Cybersmart website www.cybersmart.gov.au

ACMA’s Cybersafety helpline 1800 880 176

Victim support or to report suspicious online behaviour

Online Child Exploitation Squad 9428 1555

Crime Stoppers 1800 333 000

Help for children and teens

Kids Helpline 1800 55 1800

Free training for teachers

Australian Federal Police-run course

www.thinkuknow.org.au

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