Teachers are to be issued with a guide on how to deal with ‘sexting’ – the sharing of explicit photos or videos through mobile phones and the internet.
Amid a rise in pupils sending sexually explicit pictures, the advice pack, which is launched on Wednesday, offers tips on how to support a child whose image has been shared and whether the devices used should be searched.
A study by the NSPCC last year reported up to 40% of young people had been involved in ‘sexting’, and found teenage girls in particular were facing pressure from classmates to provide sexually explicit pictures of themselves.
Russell Hobby, general secretary of the National Association of Headteachers, welcomed the guidance.
He said: “The problem of ‘sexting’ – and the exposure of children to pornographic images through mobile devices – poses real and serious challenges for parents, head teachers and school staff.
“It exemplifies the way technology blurs the boundaries between school life and the wider world.”
The brochure – titled Sexting in schools: advice and support around self-generated images – will complement other resources already available to teachers, including ‘So You Got Naked Online’, produced last year by the South West Grid for Learning Trust.
Peter Davies, chief executive of the Child Exploitation and Online Protection (CEOP) Centre, which helped develop the new document, said: “There are very real risks with this activity by young people, from bullying to the sharing of these images among sex offenders.”
The CEOP had seen an increase in young people sharing sexual images and videos of themselves with their peer group, he said.
Last October, the Internet Watch Foundation found that 88% of self-generated, sexually explicit online content of young people had been taken from its original location and uploaded onto other websites.
Statistics from the children’s charity Beatbullying suggested 38% of young people have received a sexually explicit text or email, while 25% have received a sexual image they found offensive.
Research by the charity also suggested over half of teachers (54%) knew pupils were creating and sharing explicit material of themselves.
The newly-published guidance was developed by the Lucy Faithfull Foundation, a child protection charity, Securus Software, which provides online safety systems to over 3,200 schools, and Medway Council, whose existing advice for Kent schools was incorporated into the recommendations.
The Department of Education and the National Association of Headteachers also supported the development of the resource.
The pack will include advice to teachers about how to respond if a child tells them about ‘sexting’ they have been involved in, as well as how to handle explicit images, manage student reaction and prevent further incidents.
Case studies in the document highlight the devastating impact the sharing of explicit images can have on children’s lives and the challenges faced by schools in dealing with it.