There are currently huge challenges for police, schools, parents and social care in managing incidents of sexting. Recent data from the NCA CEOP found that of 265 schools in their network surveyed 60% of them had had an incident in the last year which totalled 960 instances, 52% had dealt with 1-4 incidents and 24% had dealt with 10 or more. 43% of those had reported the incident to the police. The peak age for the sharing was 14.
With more and more children having devices earlier and earlier and sharing becoming easier, it’s crucial that we protect children and young people.
With that in mind schools, colleges, parents and police need to be supported in managing these incidents.
In September 2016, The UK Council for Child Internet Safety (UKCCIS) released new guidance for schools on sexting – the sharing of sexually explicit images and messages among young people.
Charlotte Aynsley, director of E-Safety Training and Consultancy, was responsible for writing the guidance, and went on to develop training for schools and other professionals working with children.
One of the many challenges in this area was that children were being criminalised for sharing images with their peers when there was no “intent” or coercion. The guidance seeks to address this through supporting schools in managing risks and responding to incidents proportionately. This has been brought to life through a training package that Charlotte has set up.
The half-day training focuses on “youth-produced sexual imagery” – pictures, as opposed to text, shared from one young person to another usually via the internet on a smartphone.
“We touch on issues such as if a child was to be coerced or blackmailed into sharing a picture by an adult, but the focus is around children sharing images on a peer- to-peer basis,” explains Charlotte.
“They might have been coerced into sharing it with one person who has shared it with others, or a picture in a romantic context has been shared much further. “Younger children are sharing imagery in a jokey way – because they think it is funny to take a picture of their «bits» and send it to their friends. If that was onward shared or intercepted, the consequences for that child could be severe.”
“We support schools in making these important decisions. The training works best when we have multidisciplinary teams so police, social care and schools all considering and agreeing on their responses”.
In January 2016, the Home Office introduced a new outcome code for incidents like sexting, outcome 21, where police feel it is not in the public interest to pursue a criminal justice route. Police are able to fulfil their duties by recording the incident but not taking any further action if it is not required.
This should go some way to ensuring children are not wrongly labelled sex offenders – before then, a child caught sharing an image of themselves could have been put on the sex offenders register, explains Aynsley.
However, many incidents are still being referred to the police because schools are uncertain what to do.
For this reason, the training is highly practical and hones in on the action teachers and others should take if they become aware of sexting or an incident is reported to them by a child.
“What we’re essentially saying to schools is you can deal with this is you have been through the right checks and balances and risk assessments.”
“You don’t have to make a referral or a report to the police, and here are some of the types of incident you can deal with providing you have gone through the safeguarding checks and balances.”

The course includes getting participants to think about how they would respond to different types of incidents and whether or not an external referral is needed, steps that can be taken to remove images from social networks, and key dos and don’ts when it comes to viewing images.
While the aim is to safeguard children, the training is also about ensuring professionals protect themselves so for example never printing, copying or sharing images and ensuring that they always follow their safeguarding and child protection policy and procedures.
The training has been delivered in various areas of the UK and has been hugely successful in impacting on practice.

Feedback from Sussex police highlighted that the training helped them to support colleagues, clarified issues and helped them in identifying where further support could be found.
Additional feedback gathered by E-Safety Training and Consultancy shows 95 per cent of professionals who completed the training in Nottinghamshire said they were “highly satisfied”.
Participants said it helped them think about their practice, provided clarity and gave them confidence in dealing with incidents.
So far, the course has been delivered to over 400 of schools in Nottinghamshire, Dorset and Sussex, Tameside, the North East and the South West with a multi- agency training session in Kent for social workers, health professionals and police.
The key lessons apply to all children’s professionals, says Aynsley, although schools have some “special powers” under the Education Act 2011, around viewing and confiscation the approach is fundamentally the same.
The training is available to all children’s professionals nationally and internationally. Please contact Charlotte for further information Charlotte@e-safetytraining.co.uk

Charlotte Aynsley

E-safety Training and Consultancy Biography Charlotte has a board range of experience in the field of internet safety – for 10 years she led Becta’s advice and support to Government, local authorities and schools on keeping children safe online. She also worked with Dr Tanya Byron on her review of Safer Children in a Digital World – leading the implementation and co-ordination of the education recommendations in the Review as part of the UK Council for Child Internet Safety (UKCCIS).

In April 2010, Charlotte became Director of Practice at the children’s charity – Beatbullying, where she was responsible for the innovative Cybermentors programme, a peer to peer online support service for children and young people. In 2011, Charlotte was seconded to NCA CEOP where she conducted a review of CEOP’s educational programmes and made recommendations to CEOP’s board on the future direction of the Thinkuknow programme which has been delivered to thousands of professionals across the country.

In 2013 Charlotte started her own non profit organisation – E-safety Training and Consultancy and she has worked on several high profile programmes and initiatives including the NSPCC’s Share Aware campaign, The It Starts With you online safety campaign from Walt Disney/Club Penguin, Parent Zone’s Parenting in the Digital Age programme, the Keeping Children Safe online safety guide and created the Sexting in schools – what to do and how to handle it document.

She has spoken about online safety at several key national and international events including the UN and supported local authorities, the police, children’s organisations and international NGO’s in educating parents, children and young people on all things online safety related.

In 2016 Charlotte worked with UKCCIS and NCA CEOP authoring national advice on responding to incidents of sexting – Sexting in schools and colleges: Responding to incidents and safeguarding young people. Since the advice has been published she has delivered training to over 400 professionals supporting them in planning their response to incidents of sexting.

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