Almost half of parents in Scotland do not know it’s illegal for a child to take nude selfies, the NSPCC has said.
And while over a third of parents fear their children will be involved in sexting, most haven’t spoken to them about the risks.
Almost all of the 1000 parents interviewed by the NSPCC across the UK said they saw sexting as harmful – with a quarter saying their main concern was about their child losing control of the image.
In the last year the number of children counselled by Childline about sexting has risen 15 per cent to almost 1400 – around four a day.
With children increasingly worried about sexting, the NSPCC is urging all parents to get its latest advice so they will know what to do if their child has shared an explicit image of themselves or other young people.
The charity has also teamed up with O2 to help parents keep their children safe online.
They can contact the O2 NSPCC online safety helpline on 0808 800 5002 to get advice on privacy settings or removing indecent images of their children from mobiles and other devices.
Matt Forde, head of service for NSPCC Scotland, said: “Sharing nude selfies can put young people at risk of bullying by peers or being targeted by adult sex offenders, so it’s vital that parents talk to their children and that young people feel empowered to say no to sexting requests.
“We realise that talking about sexting can be an embarrassing or awkward conversation for both parents and children.
“And although most parents said they would seek help if an indecent image of their child had been shared on the internet, half of them weren’t confident about getting the right support.
“The NSPCC has created a new guide for parents to help them talk to their children about the risks of sexting, what the law says, and what to do if their child has shared a nude image that is being circulated online or among their peers.”
Young people can be involved in sexting in several ways – they may lose control of their own image; receive one of someone else; or share an image of another person.
One 17-year-old who called Childline said: “My friends and I talk very openly about sexting, our experiences within our relationships, and the sort of things we’ve sent each other. So it can seem like everyone’s doing it.
“There are definitely risks involved. Someone saw a video message I had sent to a previous girlfriend, took a screen shot and posted it online.
“They called me a pervert and lots of people I knew saw it – it was clearly me pictured.
“I was completely devastated and, to be honest, almost suicidal. I got the picture taken down eventually, but by that stage people had ‘unfriended’ me and the damage was done.”
The NSPCC helpline regularly hears from parents worried about their children getting involved in sexting.
One mum said: “I’ve just found out my daughter has been sent some nude selfies on this instant messaging app. She had been speaking to these people and they started sending her inappropriate images and asked her to send them things.”
A dad had concerns about his son who had been exchanging sexual images with a girl he knew.
He said: “I caught him a few months ago doing it and I did my utmost to make sure that he understood the consequences of this behaviour but, despite this, I think he is still exchanging pictures with this girl.”
Parents who have discovered that their child has been sharing sexual images of themselves should:
• stay calm and try not to get angry with the young person;
• ask who the image has been sent to and where it has been shared;
• encourage them to delete images from their phone or own social media accounts;
• contact the site hosting the images of their child if they have been posted by someone else;
• suggest their child contacts Childline, who can work with the Internet Watch Foundation to try and get images removed if they’ve been shared more widely;
• discuss issues of consent and trust in healthy relationships or friendships.
The new NSPCC and O2 advice for parents on talking to their children about sexting, and getting images removed from circulation, as well as other issues relating to their online world is available on the NSPCC website.
Children and young people can contact Childline free, 24 hours a day on 0800 1111 or get help at the Childline website.