The views of Oxfordshire schoolchildren on how to tackle ‘sexting’ are being sought as part of a cyber-safety project by Oxfordshire County Council and Thames Valley Police.
The authorities are asking schools to take part in a survey to inform approaches to combating the problem - which often involves children and young people sharing nude or sexually explicit pictures of themselves or others via smartphones and other devices. It is illegal to create or distribute such pictures of anyone under 18.
The aim is to build up a better picture of how sexting is affecting young people in Oxfordshire, and to hear their thoughts on approaches to raising awareness of the risks attached to this behaviour.
An online education resource pack has also been issued to schools and other youth settings with lesson plans and links to appropriate guidance and resources.
Pressures on young people
Oxfordshire County Council’s Anti-bullying Co-ordinator Jo Brown joined students at Wheatley Park School to promote the survey and hear their views.
She said: “Sexting often occurs between young people who know each other and can be linked to the forming of relationships and wider sexual pressures on young people. It is often coercive and when images are created and shared inappropriately this can have very damaging effects.
“Consulting and involving young people is a crucial step towards improving efforts to tackle this issue and empowering them to keep themselves safe. We’re working with schools and other youth settings to make education around this issue as effective as possible.”
Sexting is one of the issues highlighted by Thames Valley Police’s #ProtectYourWorld cyber campaign, which launched in September 2016 to raise awareness of cyber crime and encourage people to take steps to protect themselves online.
The Force worked with Oxfordshire County Council to run a Safeguarding Online Risks event in Oxfordshire, bringing together more than 100 professionals who work with young people across the Thames Valley to learn and share knowledge about online risks.
April McCoig, Thames Valley Police cyber crime advisor, said: “Young people may see sexting as harmless and while we do not wish to criminalise them, taking, sharing or receiving an image of this nature is illegal and can lead to serious consequences, including blackmail, bullying and harassment, which can have a long-lasting negative impact. It can also make young people a target of sex offenders.
“We are very pleased to be working with the council and other authorities on this issue and believe that getting young people involved is key to making a difference in changing perceptions and behaviour moving forward.”
National Safer Internet Day
The launch of the 'sexting' survey coincided with a wide range of activities which took place across Oxfordshire schools as part of National Safer Internet Day (SID). Schools were encouraged to hold lessons and workshops to discuss online safety and approaches to using the internet in a positive and constructive way.
Thames Valley Police also hosted a web chat about online safety for young people with questions answered by PC Kim Dugmore, schools and youth engagement officer for Oxford, and Force cyber crime advisor April McCoig.
The council delivers training to staff working with children on behalf of the Oxfordshire Safeguarding Children Board (OSCB). Further information, including advice for families can be found here as well as information for young people.