Child-on-child abuse has risen by 400% since 2013 (picture: Getty Images)
The report, which revealed data from 2022, showed that more than 50% of all child sexual offences are now being committed by other adolescents.
This is an alarming 400% rise from 2013, where child-on-child abuse accounted for only a third of sexual offences.
The National Analysis of Police-Recorded Child Sexual Abuse and Exploitation Crimes Report also noted he youngest ‘sex offender’ reported to police in that 12-month period was just four years old. The young child had uploaded an indecent image of their sibling.
An average age, however, for a perpetrator involved in child-on-child crimes was 14 and in nine out of 10 cases the victims knew their abuser.
These are statistics that can be worrying for any parent and broaching the topic of sending nude images can be daunting. Metro.co.uk spoke to Dr Marianne Trent, Clinical Psychologist and author of Talking Heads: Your guide to finding a qualified therapist, about how to talk to your children about this issue.
If you’re concerned there are ways you can talk to your child without it seeming confrontational (picture: Getty Images)
Be mindful of shame
‘To begin with, we need to be mindful,’ Dr Marianne says.
‘These conversations can lead people to experience shame and shame and guilt and embarrassment can be really damaging emotions. So, we might need to be a little bit mindful about how we handle these conversations to try and minimize those complicated emotions as much as possible.
‘One way of doing that might be that you can pick a time that’s not confrontational. Pick a time where you’re naturally side by side. So perhaps you’re going out for a walk or perhaps you’re next to each other in the car or on a trainbecause it can feel less confronting than face to face contact.
‘If you know that actually this is going to be handled reasonably well, it might be just over a coffee or something and that’s ok.’
What does the law say about explicit images and sexting?
Creating or sharing explicit images of a child is illegal, whether photographic or AI-generated (UK Safer Internet Centre, 2023), and even if the person doing it is a child.
England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales each have their own legislation on the sharing of indecent images of children.
In England and Wales, the Protection of Children Act 1978 makes it an offence to take, make, show, distribute, possess (with a view to distribute) or publish an advertisement with an indecent photograph or pseudo-photograph (an image made to look like a photograph) of a child.
Legislation across the UK does not define the term “indecent” but there is guidance.
This refers specifically to sexual images or video content which are produced, shared by or in the possession of young people under 18. It doesn’t cover sexual messages which do not contain imagery or the sharing of sexual imagery by adults. To clarify this, the guidance uses the term “youth produced sexual imagery”.
Common themes across the guidance are:
Children and young people should not be unnecessarily criminalised for sharing youth-produced sexual imagery
Agencies should work together to share advice and information during investigations and help educate children about the risks of sexting.
Across the UK, section 33 of the Criminal Justice and Courts Act 2015 makes it an offence to share private sexual photographs or films with the intent to cause distress.
If an indecent image of a child shows a sexual act, the Sexual Offences Act 2003 states that the police must investigate to find out whether a sexual offence has been committed and act accordingly. This applies across the UK.
All incidents of youth produced sexual imagery which are brought to police attention should be recorded as a crime. However, in January 2016 the Home Office launched outcome 21. This allows police in England and Wales to record that a crime has happened but that it was not considered to be in the public interest to take formal criminal justice action.
Marianne adds that you as a parent know your child best, so always approach them in a way that you know works for you.
Don’t attempt to ‘shoehorn it into an already busy day’, make sure you allow plenty of time for the conversation.
Next Marianne says it’s important not to level it as an accusation. She explains: ‘It can be helpful to put it out there conversationally to begin with.
‘Say “I heard something on the news the other day about something called sexting, it’s where people are sending pictures of themselves. I wondered what your view is on that, have you come across it?”
‘You can also say “it made me feel a whole load of things and I wondered what it made you feel?” So you’re not necessarily putting a judgment on that. You’re not saying I found that horrendous or I found that terrifying because that’s likely to invoke a defence reaction.
‘What you get, obviously, when anybody is trying to defend themselves is that they’re going to become more protective or more secretive’
It’s important to avoid judgement during the conversation with your child (picture: Getty Images)
Try to avoid strong emotions
You might as a parent feel horrified, especially since the police report also revealed there had been 6,813 rapes in 2022, along with 8,020 sex attacks among young people – but expressing strong emotions means your child is likely to get defensive.
If your child does then admit to sharing or receiving nude images, Marianne says to try and get an understanding of why or how it happened.
Explain that ‘while someone might have a good relationship with someone currently, what if that relationship were to change?’. Then point out that if the relationship did change, would they be happy if that image was still out there.
Marianne explains: ‘It’s trying to have that conversation in a way that doesn’t shame your young person but allows them to be able to make informed choices from a rational mindset.’
Don’t worry about giving them ‘ideas’
‘Sometimes parents can be scared of raising this conversation in case it gives them ideas,’ Dr Marianne adds, ‘but what we know is that’s not really the way that human brains work.’
Role playing a scenario could be a good way to practice a response for your child to use, so they’re less likely to succumb to peer pressure.
‘You can say “what if I was a friend and said could you send me a photo of you, what might you say to that?” she says.
‘You can practice as a to and fro without actually the exchange of any information just so they have a practiced phrase. It’s less surprising that way and they’re less likely to make impulsive or rash decisions they might regret later.’
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Over 15,000 indecent images were sent by children in just one year.