The police has investigated thousands of children across the UK for sexting, with a large number of them below the age of ten.
As many as 695 children have indulged in sexting in the Greater Manchester area alone.
According to data obtained by the BBC, the police is talking to thousands of children in England and Wales who may have indulged in sexting and sharing images of themselves with others.
Among those who are being spoken to is a 5-year old from County Durham who was contacted by police officers last year. In the Greater Manchester area, four seven-year-olds and four eight-year-olds have also been investigated.
Since 2013, the police has spoken to more than 4,000 children who indulged in sexting and is working with agencies to ‘provide advice and guidance to both schoolteachers and young people’. Worried youngsters have also been advised to speak with a trusted adult or to call 101.
These incidents of sexting arise from the unsupervised usage of smartphones, tablets and other internet-based devices by children. A recent McAfee research found that only 40% of children aged between 5-12 years old are supervised the whole time they are using the internet.
‘Teaching children the best practices for safe online behaviour right from the start will be invaluable to them as they grow up. We all have a responsibility – parents, teachers and technology experts – to ensure children understand how to protect themselves from the potential risks online,’ said Raj Samani, Chief Scientist at McAfee.
‘This can only be done as a result of greater education and by having ongoing conversations with children, even when it comes to the more sensitive topics like sex education online,’ he added.
While appropriate sex education offered by teachers and parents will go a long way in fulfilling curiosities harboured by children, it will also prevent them from falling victim to sex offenders who may or may not be older to them.
The Greater Manchester Police has also called for an ‘early intervention’ to stop children from turning into sex offenders.
“Some of the behaviour we are seeing young people involved in such as ‘sexting’ is leading them towards offending that could mean they end up on the sex offenders’ register. So we have to ensure there is early intervention to stop this happening,” said Det Chief Inspector Deborah Oakes from the Greater Manchester Police.
A joint initiative between the the Greater Manchester Police and the Mayor’s office and funded by the Home Office aims to identify people ‘at risk of offending, as well as gathering intelligence to ensure officers will be managing those at risk of re-offending.’