Children as young as 10 are 'sexting', says study
Schoolchildren as young as 10 are routinely having sex and sending explicit pictures of themselves to classmates, a survey has revealed.
"The findings show boys frequently send pictures of their genitals to female pupils and 12-year-old girls agree to boyfriends' demands to send revealing snaps of themselves or be pictured carrying out sex acts.
One schoolteacher questioned said pupils are so pressured into sending naked photos to each other that they trawl the internet looking at child pornography to find suitable images.
The classroom survey was carried out by Michelle Barry, who works with 7,000 youngsters aged seven upwards as part of the Southampton Rape Crisis' preventative education STAR project.
Ms Barry said: "I was gobsmacked when I asked a class of 13-year-olds if they had ever sent naked pictures of themselves and not a single hand did not go up.
"What is most worrying is the fact young people do not identify this as a problem. For them it is part and parcel of school life.
"Sexting is a huge issue and something we are hearing about more and more. Sharing pornographic images is common place."
Ms Barry, who conducted the survey among Year 9 pupils, said the study also showed the average child is first exposed to pornography at the age of 11.
Jon Brown, sexual abuse leader at the NSPCC, said: "The regular and normalised consumption of hardcore pornography among young people has contributed to the explicit sharing of self-generated imagery."
The study follows new guidance issued last month that urges teachers to use tough powers introduced by the Coalition to seize devices suspected of being used to share explicit photos or videos.
Schools should consider informing the police over any extreme material found on pupils’ phones and ensure images are taken off social networking websites, it is claimed.
The move came amid fears over a rise in the number of children sharing explicit material using mobile phones and social networking websites.
Last week, the Sex Education Forum (SEF), a coalition of more than 90 organisations that includes the NSPCC and Barnardo's, published a new magazine providing advice to teachers on how to tackle subjects like "sexting in the classroom.
The publication includes lesson ideas for each age group, with suggestions including discussing the dangers of sexting with pupils aged 11 to 14. It asks students to think about why young people do it, “which may include positive reasons such as 'for fun’".
A study by the NSPCC last year reported up to 40 per cent 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."