14/03/2016

Is there a sexting crisis in Britain's primary schools? Unfortunately, probably yes.

When I was at primary school, it was rare that anyone had a mobile phone at all.  But a mobile phone with a camera on it?  That was unheard of.

Nowadays, children are walking around with more up to date smart phones than me; using Snapchat and a whole host of other messaging apps to keep in touch with their friends, sharing minute-by-minute updates and pictures from their everyday lives.

Given the advances in technology, the ease of communication, and the age at which children are exposed to social media there is no wonder that there is a sexting crisis.  What shocks me, though, is how young kids are starting swapping sexts.

A recent Freedom of Information request by The Times found that children as young as 12 were swapping explicit images with each other at primary schools across the country.  Whilst This Morning spoke to a 21-year-old today who admitted doing the same as a youngster.

Sexting amongst teenagers isn't a new trend.

When I was at high school, it was all about MSN.  Boys would regularly whack their willy out on webcam whilst girls would flash their bras as they "accidentally" got changed in view of the webcam.  Exchanging images of that nature isn't a new trend, but the ease at which it can be done is.  As is how young those are doing it.

When I was a teenager you couldn't get the internet on your phone without paying extra, so your 'social media' experience was restricted to the computer when you got home.  Now, thanks to technological advances, you can take a photo and send it to anyone in the world within seconds.  Whether it be on Snapchat, Whatsapp, Facebook, iMessage or any of the other instant messaging apps out there.

Everyone, at some point in their lives, has sent a risqué picture to someone.  The savvy will cover their tracks and make sure their face/any recognisable aspects are out of shot, but many won't take such precautions and often see their images end up in the wrong hands.  That's why revenge porn has become such a big deal after exes clung onto the images to use as a bargaining chip or a way of hurting a former flame.

Even though there is apparently a law which makes sending explicit pictures under the age of 18 illegal, I don't think this will eradicate the problem.  There will always be easy ways that kids can do it.

I'm shocked that kids as young as 12 are swapping naughty photos, though.  The fact that children - actual children - have phones and the ability to do it in the first place just shocks me.  I know parents will say it's hard not to give their child a phone because all their friends have them, but surely you're just opening them up to this world which is far more advanced and mature than their years.

With a smart phone, children can have Facebook, Twitter, Instagram... every form of social media under the sun!  They are then put in an incredibly vulnerable position, being thrust into a world that is not aimed at their age bracket.  They'll see videos, pictures, links, jokes and much more all of which is aimed at those much more mature and grown up.

When I was a child, and a teenager, I always felt so wise beyond my years and so, so grown up.  I thought I could handle anything and everything that was out there.  When I first got MSN my mum and dad gave me the whole 'don't accept anyone you don't know' speech, but that soon went out the window.  The same when I got MySpace.  Then it was Bebo and Piczo and finally Facebook came into the equation.  I always wanted to do 'grown up things' and hated being told I was too young.

I was always careful when using the old school social media not to give personal details out or arrange to meet anyone that you don't know - all the rules that are drilled into you when you are first given that bit of freedom.  Now, I feel that social media is such an 'everyday' part of life, that the same warnings are not there.

The programme 'Catfish' has been made into an entertainment show, when really the risk is real and should not be trivialised.  For each person that Catfish has identified as a fake, there will be 100s more out there preying on the young, the vulnerable and the unaware.

This 'sexting crisis' might be nothing new, but the age at which kids are taking part in it really is and should be of a huge concern to parents who allow their kids to surf so freely around the worldwide web and all its nooks and crannies. I dread to think how advanced technology will be and how easily accessible the scary world will be by the time I have kids who are approaching their teenage years. Who knows what the problem will be then?

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