Youth Produced Sexual Imagery (YPSI or “Sexting”) can be defined as images or videos generated by children under the age of 18 that are of a sexual nature or are considered to be indecent. These images may be shared between children and young people and/or adults via a mobile phone, webcam, handheld device or website/app.
It is a crime to take, make, permit to take, distribute, show, possess, possess with intent to distribute, or to advertise indecent images of any person below the age of 18 (Crime and Justice Act 1988, section 160,Protection of Children Act, 1978, section 1,1,a). Professionals should be aware the prosecution or Being prosecuted through the criminal justice system is likely to be upsetting and distressing for children and young people especially if they are convicted and punished. The label of sex offender that would be applied to a child or young person convicted of such offences is regrettable, unjust and clearly detrimental to their future health and wellbeing.
Once you are aware of your child’s online behaviour and the potential risks they may face, there are a number of guidelines you can follow to help protect your child.
Engage in open discussion
Promote open and calm discussion about your child's experiences on the internet. If they fear they will be blamed or punished for their online mistakes they are more likely to hide a problem or try and fix it themselves, potentially making it a lot worse.
If they feel comfortable coming to you with their experiences you will be able to intervene before a problem escalates or they expose themselves to danger.
Talk about the risks
Children start using the internet from a very young age so it is important you discuss potential dangers early and regularly. Although topics such as grooming and sexual content can be uncomfortable to approach it is imperative children are equipped with the tools to protect themselves online.
Have an agreement and establish appropriate behaviour
The behavioural boundaries and sanctions you set for your child must include their use of the internet. You may wish to consider the following:
Set time limits for your child's internet use and incorporate regular screen breaks.
Social media profiles are set to private so only trusted contacts can gain access.
They only accept friend requests from, or communicate with people they know.
Personal contact details are not given out over the internet.
They never meet anyone in person from the internet without an accompanying adult.
They can come to you for help with any problem.
For primary school children parental controls can be a very effective way of controlling the sites and content your children are able to access. Most computers and internet connected devices have parental controls available. Talk to your manufacturer or service provider to see what restrictions are available.
BT, Sky, Talk Talk and Virgin have video guides to help get you started.
Older children and teens are likely to get around filters or access the internet on personal smart phones or portable devices. It is for these reasons that parental controls cannot be solely relied upon but seen as an addition to the educational guidelines outlined above.
A federal law, the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), was created to help protect kids younger than 13 when engaged in online activities. It's designed to keep anyone from getting a child's personal information without a parent knowing about it and agreeing to it first. COPPA requires websites to explain their privacy policies on the site and get parental consent before collecting or using a child's personal information, such as a name, address, phone number, or Social Security number. The law also prohibits a site from requiring a child to provide more personal information than necessary to play a game or participate in a contest.
But even with this law your kids' best online protection is you. By talking to them about potential online dangers and monitoring their computer use you'll help them surf the internet safely.