Warning over sexting and 'bait out' groups
Kent Police is warning of a current trend in social media sites where sexual images of children and sexual gossip about individuals are being shared with large groups of people.
So-called ‘Bait out’ pages or groups are being set up on social media sites and local young people are encouraged to share images and talk about other young people to shame and bully them.
More than 40 children in Thanet have been identified as having sent nude images of themselves at some point in the past and fallen victim to a ‘bait out’ group on Snapchat since the start of January 2018. Kent Police is investigating.
Other children in Kent are at risk of having indecent images or information about them being widely circulated online. This can be due to an increase in ‘self-generated indecent images’; images that may have been taken by young people as a result of ‘sexting’ or sharing ‘nude selfies’ between friends or as part of a relationship.
Although ‘sexting’ can be seen by young people as harmless, creating or sharing indecent images of a child (someone below the age of 18) is illegal, even if the person doing it is themselves a child. A young person will be breaking the law if they:
Whilst the police do not wish to unnecessarily criminalise young people, this could potentially affect a child’s reputation, education and future employment prospects, for example if they are named on a crime report or receive a caution or other criminal sanction.
- Take an explicit (nude or nearly nude) photo or video of themselves or a friend if they are below the age of 18.
- Share an explicit image or video of a child, even if it’s shared between children of the same age.
- Possess, download or store an explicit image or video of a child, even if the child gave their permission for it to be created.
Impact on a child's health
Taking, sharing or receiving these images can also have a long-lasting impact on a child’s emotional health and wellbeing. For example, it may cause emotional distress, increase the risk of them receiving negative comments and bullying, and could also place them at risk of abuse and exploitation.
During police investigations, enquiries will often be made with the person who is responsible for the contract of a mobile phone that is used to distribute naked images of young people.
As Detective Superintendent Susie Harper (pictured above) says, this can have serious implications for parents:
‘If a child’s mobile phone contract is in his or her parent’s name, then the parent can be liable for what the phone is used for, and any indecent material that is saved or sent from it.
‘I’m not raising awareness to scaremonger, and our first priority is to safeguard young people and protect them from harm and there are many places we can signpost them to for independent help and advice.
‘I also think it’s important for parents to be aware about the ways their children might be vulnerable to these things and what they can do about it.
‘I appreciate this is a very sensitive issue for parents and carers to raise, but there are a number of places where they can get expert advice on talking to their children about these issues, including the Kent Police website: www.kent.police.uk/advice/sexual-offences/sexting/’
Meanwhile, Kent Police’s Assistant Chief Constable, Tony Blaker said:
‘It is important to point out that we are not looking to criminalise young people or their parents.
‘We wish to raise the awareness of this trend with parents, as they often supply mobile phones and computer devices to their children and, as they may hold the contract to those phones or devices, they are often the first point of contact when police investigate criminal offences.
‘The purpose of raising the issue with parents is to encourage them to engage with their child about the risks of this activity online, and expose the risks involved in this type of behaviour and of what could be a criminal offence. We also want to enable parents to safeguard their children from harm. Shared images can often lead to bullying or exploitation of their child.
‘Kent Police has invested time and effort into working with partner agencies to understand and address the issues at hand to ensure people of all ages can enjoy the internet, mobiles and other new technology and in a safe and secure way.’
Kent Police’s Youth Engagement Officers will be liaising with schools to raise awareness of the consequences of taking, sharing and/or receiving of nude images of other young people as well as signposting to sources of support.
Kent police would also like to encourage all parents and carers to speak to their children about the possible consequences of taking and sharing nude images of themselves or other young people. The following links will be helpful to enable parents to discuss these issues with their children in an age appropriate and supportive way:
Helplines and reporting
• Children can talk to a ChildLine counsellor 24 hours a day about anything that is worrying them by ringing 0800 11 11 or in an online chat at www.childline.org.uk/Talk/Chat/Pages/OnlineChat.aspx
• If parents or carers are concerned that their child is being contacted by adults as a result of having shared sexual imagery they should report to NCA-CEOP at www.ceop.police.uk/safety-centre
• ChildLine and the Internet Watch Foundation have partnered to help children get sexual or naked images removed from the internet. More information is available at www.childline.org.uk/explore/onlinesafety/pages/sexting.aspx
• If parents and carers are concerned about their child, they can contact the NSPCC Helpline by ringing 0808 800 5000, by emailing [email protected], or by texting 88858. They can also ring the Online Safety Helpline by ringing 0808 800 5002.
• Further advice in relation to a sexting matter can be sought from the Marie Collins Foundation (MCF) by ringing 01765 688827 or by emailing [email protected]
Advice and information for parents
• The NSPCC has information and advice about sexting available on its website: www.nspcc.org.uk/preventing-abuse/keeping-children-safe/sexting/
• NCA-CEOP has produced a film resource for parents and carers to help them prevent their children coming to harm through sharing sexual imagery: www.thinkuknow.co.uk/parents/Support-tools/Films-to-watch-with-your-children/Exposed_subtitled/
• Childnet have information and advice about sexting available on its website: www.thinkuknow.co.uk/14_plus/need-advice/selfies-and-sexting/
• Parent Info (parentinfo.org) provides information and advice to parents from expert organisations on topics ranging from sex and relationships, mental health and online safety. This includes content on sexting.
• The UK Safer Internet Centre have produced checklists for parents on using social networks safely www.saferinternet.org.uk/checklists
Resources parents could highlight to their children
• ChildLine have created Zip-It, an app that provides witty comebacks in order to help young person say no to requests for naked images: www.childline.org.uk/Play/GetInvolved/Pages/sexting-zipit-app.aspx
• There is information on the ChildLine website for young people about sexting: https://childline.org.uk/info-advice/bullying-abuse-safety/online-mobile-safety/sexting/
• The Safer Internet Centre has produced resources called ‘So You Got Naked Online’ which help young people to handle incidents of sexting: http://childnetsic.s3.amazonaws.com/ufiles/Files%202015/SYGNO%20Booklet%20- %20version%202%20May%202015.pdf