Everyone these days has a mobile phone which is capable of taking high-quality pictures and videos. Most children at secondary school are given one by their parents for the best of reasons.
However, the increased prevalence of mobile phone usage by children has seen a huge increase in the number of children unwittingly falling foul of the law by entering into what is commonly known as “sexting” with their peers.
“Sexting” is defined as “when someone shares sexual, naked or semi-naked images or videos of themselves or others, or sends sexually explicit messages.”
Of itself, with consent, save for certain exceptions, it is not unlawful for persons over the age of 18 to engage in “sexting”. The problem lies when children under the age of 18 sharing videos of themselves.
Children at secondary school will be taught that the age of consent for having sex is 16. However, the vast majority of children will not know that they have to be 18 in order to share sexually explicit images of themselves. If, for example, two 17 years in a relationship decide to send each other naked photos of themselves with consent, they are unwittingly committing a criminal offence.
Schools, for safeguarding reasons, are obliged to report any such incidents of “sexting” to the police for investigation. This can lead to a formal police interview under caution at a police station, and can lead potentially to prosecution in the criminal courts.
Even if a young person is not prosecuted, it can still lead to them receiving a police caution which would appear on an enhanced criminal records check which could affect their future chances of obtaining certain jobs or entering certain professions. As can be seen, the consequences for what children may see as harmless fun or flirting, can be profound.
What is needed is greater education in schools to make children aware of the consequences of their actions. Social media giants should have a role to play in this too, as most images are sent via social media accounts.
At Baron Grey Solicitors, we are highly experienced in dealing with such cases in a discreet, sensitive and professional manner. Please do not hesitate to contact us if we can assist you.