EDINBURGH’S most senior police officer has warned of a dramatic rise in “sexting” and complaints about sexual images being sent to and from youngsters in the city.
He urged parents to talk to their children about the dangers involved and to use the parental controls on the internet to help keep youngsters safe.
Crimes of indecency have risen by almost a quarter over the past year in the Capital and online incidents are one of the reasons for the rise.
Edinburgh police commander Chief Superintendent Kenny MacDonald said: “We would encourage parents to talk to their kids about staying safe online and make use of the parental controls internet service providers have made available. Many of the offences we are seeing are young people sharing explicit images of themselves with people they know – or people they don’t know. We are working through our school liaison officers to try to improve people’s knowledge about how to stay safe online.”
In 2014, police in Nottinghamshire wrote to schools warning that pupils who shared “sexts” with friends over the internet could face criminal prosecution. In one case cited in the letter, a teenage girl who sent a topless picture of herself to her boyfriend was investigated after being deemed to have distributed an indecent image of a child.
But Chief Supt MacDonald said: “We’re not looking to criminalise young people but rather to protect them.” He said the police was undertaking analysis to understand the extent of sexual offending online. But he said it was a problem that was likely to carry on growing: “Given society’s access to the internet and mobile devices, we see this as being a continuing trend. I would expect levels of recorded sexual crime to continue to increase.”
Councillor Paul Godzik, convener of the city council’s education, children and families committee, said education had a key part to play: “Our schools work very closely with Police Scotland to tackle the issue of sexting, and cyber bullying in general. Respecting each other, keeping safe online and building healthy relationships are at the core of our approach.
“Many secondary school teachers are trained in the delivery of the SHARE programme (Sexual Health & Relationships Education). Education can play a pivotal role in helping young people recognise what constitutes acceptable online behaviour and how to treat each other with respect and dignity.”