Selfies seem to be everywhere nowadays. With so many of the younger generation seemingly happy to send pictures and often inappropriate content to each other should it really come as such a big surprise that occasionally something goes wrong” children haven’t changed.
Our children need to grow, be allowed to make mistakes and learn from them without headlines claiming that a whole generation is being criminalised. Parents, teachers and police need to strike a balance. They need to understand what the law says, what the risks are and how we educate our children. We must be careful not to drive necessary reporting and investigations underground for fear that mistakes made during childhood which could be dragged up in adult life. Telling already vulnerable children that when an indecent image has gone its gone and it can’t be controlled as it is no longer the answer. We need to reassure them, look at prevention and seek to support those affected. We can give them the tools that make them emotionally more resilient and intelligent. After all it is not a fad that is just going to disappear.
Some schools and organisations are simply not sharing information because they are concerned about their reputation or reports of criminalisation of young people. That has been said before, but we should start talking more freely again about this.
A young girl who shares a topless selfie on Snapchat may not have been coerced into doing so but she might be displaying worrying patterns of sexualised behaviours for other reasons. We should always think, child first. Has she been a victim of neglect or sexual abuse? Is this more than just exploring sexuality and experimentation?
What about a teen boy who pretends to be someone else to get explicit images from a girl he likes? Months later his browsing history shows he has been accessing questionable content. should we consider him a victim or an offender?
The Home Office National Crime recording standard is clear where any notifiable offence is reported to police, it must be recorded. The issue of investigation and to what extent must be down to some very careful considerations not least by applying common sense.
Once a crime is reported and recorded it is designated an outcome number. Outcome 21 has had a lot of attention regarding sexting but it is not that new. It says further investigation resulting from a crime report which could provide evidence sufficient to support formal action being taken against the suspect is not in the public interest.
In other words, the police will sometimes decide that in their professional judgment if further action is not in the best interests of the public and the people involved.
This should provide some reassurance that children will not be unnecessarily criminalised and that the police will apply careful consideration when deciding what action to take.
As parents we need to get digital – understand the technology, learn how it works and start to close the knowledge gap. Most of us will never be one step ahead of our children but saying, do not do social media will mean that you miss opportunities to connect with your children and keep them safe. Becoming media mums and digital dads is a step in the right direction.
Don’t wait for schools or the police to deliver their esafety lessons. The majority of children we speak to, as well as my own, switch off as soon as they hear the term esafety.
Take responsibility and consider staying safe online as a much needed life skill. Start the conversation at home before you give your child a device and continue talking to them, just like you would when teaching them any other life skill. Parents shouldn’t leave this challenge to the professionals but if your child is ever forced or coerced to sexting even by another child remember that you should report it immediately to your local police.
Source: Vodafone Digital Parenting