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Children sexting on the increase, RGP says

DS Joannna Ullger, from the RGP's Safeguarding Unit.

Children as young as 12 are engaging in sexting, with the exchange of explicit images online being on the rise among Gibraltarian youngsters, the RGP’s Safeguarding Team said.

In a statement, the RGP said it receives one or two reports of sexting every week and detectives from this department want to warn parents and guardians of the issue as it has increased since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“The main issue involves children aged 12 years up until the age of 18 taking and then sharing indecent images on social media or communication media such as WhatsApp or Snapchat,” an RGP statement said.

“It is important to remember that in the eyes of the law everyone is classified as children until they reach the age of 18.”

“But detectives are also concerned about local children accessing Internet sites such as Omegle, where strangers can talk to them in a sexual manner and share images and videos of an indecent nature.”

Officers are warning parents, teachers, guardians and children of the dangers of sexting and sharing indecent images online.

According to Detective Sergeant Joanna Ullger of the RGP’s Safeguarding Team, there has been an increase since the start of the pandemic, as children are spending more time at home and on the Internet.

She said: “We’ve definitely seen an increase in sexting and the taking and sharing of indecent images since the lockdown.”

“But we don’t want to criminalise children for not fully understanding the law or making a very bad error in judgement.”

“However, there is a serious concern when someone deliberately shares explicit images and videos of someone.”

“Sexting is not without consequences, but all teenagers make mistakes.”

Ms Ullger said there are ways for parents, schools and communities to respond to sexting “without criminalising youngsters and jeopardising their futures.”

“The issue is, once these pictures go viral, no matter how hard our officers try to erase all images, there will almost always be one image still out there, which may resurface a day, or week or month, even years later.”

“We wish we had a magic wand and could have them all deleted, but we don’t.”

“We have to understand that once we click that send button, we lose control of the image or video.”

The age of consent is 16 in Gibraltar, but the law against indecent images of children still applies to the sharing of sexual videos or photos of anyone under 18, even if the subject of the video is the person sharing it, an issue which some young people may not be aware of.

Talks have been held in school where officers have been explaining the dangers of sexting to children, and teachers have also been receiving training on the matter.

In addition, the RGP has been posting sexting awareness videos on its Facebook page.

For more advice about Sexting visit www.police.gi/information/cyber-safety/sexting or visit the RGP’s partner agency Get Safe Online at www.getsafeonline.org/personal/article-category/safeguarding-children/

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