SEXTING is now an “everyday” occurrence in Edinburgh classrooms – sparking fears the pressure to send explicit photos is driving some pupils to the brink of suicide.
Children as young as 11 are embroiled in the act of sending sexually explicit snaps of themselves via social media to other people.
The shocking claims were made at a forum yesterday – outlining the stark extent of a practice which is now believed to extend to all secondary schools.
In the worst cases, pupils, mostly girls, have been left feeling suicidal after being forced or pressured into taking snaps of themselves – only to find the X-rated images shared online.
Community safety leader Cammy Day said more needs to be done to help victims.
He said: “Everyone has the right to feel secure and safe from harm and I would encourage anyone who is worried to get in touch for help.”
As education and safety chiefs launched a campaign against online abuse at Drummond Community High, it emerged one Edinburgh victim was pressured by her boyfriend into texting him a photo of herself and then overheard other pupils at school talking about owning indecent pictures of several girls.
Mia Fulton, 14, an S3 pupil at Drummond, who took part in the launch, said: “There are certain pupils it happens to repeatedly – and it’s boys as well, although more often the boys are sending each other the pictures. “It’s common on sites like Instagram and Twitter and happens in primary schools as well.”
With official figures suggesting at least two instances of sexting are reported in the Capital every week, education and safety chiefs said their campaign, Speak Up Speak Out, would emphasise that cyber-bullying can affect people of all ages and in different forms.
But while they welcomed efforts to raise awareness, pupils said more radical measures would be needed to tackle the problem.
Pavel Sales, 14, an S3 pupil at Drummond, said: “It happens every day. You get everything in those pictures – upper bits of someone’s body, the lower bits. It’s mainly girls it happens to – it doesn’t happen a lot to boys but it does happen.”
And classmate Humaysa Khan, 14, said: “I hear about it happening every week, with pupils aged 11 to 14. I just try to ignore it – I don’t want to see the pictures.
“I’ve heard about kids wanting to commit suicide after this has happened to them.”
All Edinburgh teachers receive mandatory child protection training every three years but staff at Drummond admitted that the rapid “escalation” in instances of sexting had taken them by surprise.
Guidance teacher Michael Paley said: “This academic year, I’ve had two or three allegations to deal with as part of my caseload – but that’s two or three more than we had the last academic year.
“It’s the escalation of it that’s worrying. The issue is that young people now think it’s OK to put the most private images of themselves online.”
He added: “It’s something that was not part of my job before and it worries me because anything like that comes under the bracket of child protection. As soon as something goes online, it can get into the wrong hands.”
Police have vowed to do everything possible to stamp out the practice. Divisional Commander chief superintendent Mark Williams said: “I would encourage anyone who has been the target of such behaviour to speak out in the knowledge that support is available.”