SEXUALLY explicit images sent by youngsters can "ruin" their lives for years, police are warning.
A clampdown on 'sexting' – when messages, photos or video footage of a sexual nature are shared via text or across social media – has been organised by Gloucestershire police. They have enlisted young people from the Youth Achievement Foundation, in Kingsway, Gloucester, to design a hard-hitting poster to get the message out ahead of Safer Internet Day Tuesday.
Fears that sexting images and videos could get into the wrong hands and lead to bullying and humiliation have been highlighted. People who go on to share the indecent images could be breaking the law too.
PC Jenny Kadodia, of Gloucestershire Constabulary's Schools Unit, said: "This is a growing issue and one we have seen in the county a number of times.
"Many youngsters may not fully appreciate the possible consequences of posting explicit images of themselves or others online but it can be devastating and even ruin lives.
"The poster focuses on how easy it is to lose control of an image when you text it to someone, even someone you think you can trust, and how it can cause years of embarrassment if it ends up being seen by friends, parents or even complete strangers."
Schoolteachers are also warning about the dangers of sexting.
Di Harrill, who oversees personal, social and health education at Newent Community School, said: "It's vital we make youngsters aware of these issues and flag up the potential dangers so we can prevent them coming to harm."
The school's Year 10 pupils have created a play about sexting to warn their younger peers in Year 8. A number of music pupils will also be writing a song about cyber bullying as part of their studies.
The school even invited PC Nicola Dannatt to speak to parents at a recent parents' evening in a bid to keep them in the loop on the issue.
PC Dannatt said: "Schools across the county are getting the key messages across. Newent has done an excellent job in tackling these issues with the pupils. I was recently invited to a parents' evening to give out advice so that the grown-ups remain up to speed too. The internet is an amazing tool but it is important to understand its power and for young people and parents to discuss the potential dangers."
For more details, visit www.saferinternet.org.uk and www.thinkuknow.co.uk.