The online world offers amazing opportunities but also brings elements of potential risk and for Parents & Carers, making sense of the online world can appear to be an enormous challenge. Unlike previous generations, the online environment is an integral part of children’s lives and therefore we can no longer consider their wellbeing or safety without also considering their relationship to technology. However, staying safe online is fundamentally about behaviours rather than the technology itself and if approached from this perspective, we can begin to gain confidence to support our children.
The illustration below provides some useful tips for Parents and Carers when discussing the online environment with children. In addition, this page also contains a variety of resources which can be used to develop knowledge and confidence to support children and young people.
This advice replaces Sexting in Schools: What to do and how to handle it.
Whilst professionals refer to the issue as ‘sexting’ there is no clear definition of ‘sexting’. Many professionals consider sexting to be ‘sending or posting sexually suggestive images, including nude or semi-nude photographs, via mobiles or over the Internet.’4 Yet when young people5 are asked ‘What does sexting mean to you?’ they are more likely to interpret sexting as ‘writing and sharing explicit messages with people they know’.6 Similarly, many parents think of sexting as flirty or sexual text messages rather than images.7
This advice only covers the sharing of sexual imagery by young people. Creating and sharing sexual photos and videos of under-18s is illegal and therefore causes the greatest complexity for schools and other agencies when responding. It also presents a range of risks which need careful management.
On this basis this advice introduces the phrase ‘youth8 produced sexual imagery’ and uses this instead of ‘sexting.’ This is to ensure clarity about the issues this advice addresses.
‘Youth produced sexual imagery’ best describes the practice because:
- ‘Youth produced’ includes young people sharing images that they, or another young person, have created of themselves.
- ‘Sexual’ is clearer than ‘indecent.’ A judgement of whether something is ‘decent’ is both a value judgement and dependent on context.
‘Imagery’ covers both still photos and moving videos (and this is what is meant by reference to imagery throughout the document)
The types of incidents which this advice covers are:
A person under the age of 18 creates and shares sexual imagery of themselves with a peer under the age of 18
A person under the age of 18 shares sexual imagery created by another person under the age of 18 with a peer under the age of 18 or an adult
A person under the age of 18 is in possession of sexual imagery created by another person under the age of 18
O2 and NSPCC Online Safety helpline
O2 in partnership with the NSPCC have set up a dedicated Helpline to support Parents & Carers with a variety of concerns or questions. The Helpline is available seven days a week and is free to call and can support with technical queries or more personal questions about staying safe online. Find out more about the Helpline via the link below or call on 0808 800 5002
Childnet International for Parents and Carers
Childnet provide a large range of advice and resources to support Parents and Carers to keep children safe online. Their Parents section contains some very useful tips about talking to children about online issues and includes 'Hot Topic' guides across a wide range of issues.
CEOP TUK - Concerned about your child: Online Behaviour
CEOP's TUK programme have produced a series of useful guides for Parents and Carers. Online Behaviour focusses on Exposure to Sexual Content, Online Activy and Sharing Information Online. Access the Online Behaviour guidance through the link below:
CBBC Stay Safe
The CBBC Stay Safe website contains lots of useful tips and entertaining clips for addressing a variety of online safety issues with children including Bullying, Social Media, Age limits and Gaming.