Police are urging parents and young people to be aware of the consequences of sexting.

Sexting is the term used for the sending or receiving of sexual, naked or semi-naked images or videos which can be taken by a young person of themselves or by others.

It is illegal for anyone to take, send, receive or share these types of images of anyone under 18, including selfies.

However, Dorset Police’s primary concern is to avoid criminalising young people where it is not appropriate, which means education and awareness is key to keeping young people safe.

In 2017, there were 101 reports of sexting in Dorset, an increase from 38 reports in 2016, which is likely due to an increased awareness of sexting.

Building on the work the Safe Schools and Communities Team (SSCT) has been conducting with schools and youth groups, it is important to continue to make young people aware of the possible effects of sexting and encourage parents to have open and honest conversations with their children about it.

Supt Matt Lawler, head of the alliance prevention department, said: “Education and safeguarding is at the forefront of all we do with young people as police forces.

“We want to re-affirm to young people and parents that we are here to help when you need us.

“Technology has become ever more advanced and available.

“By educating young people about the law around sexting and the potential consequences of sending these types of images, we can help them to avoid making a decision they later regret.”

Dorset’s youth services operational manager, Ian Ison, said: “Our primary concern is to avoid criminalising young people where it is not appropriate and we hope that by educating young people about sexting we can prevent any harmful outcomes and keep young people safe.

“Young people need to remember, when you press send, you’re not just breaking the law, you lose control of that image, where it goes on the internet and who sees it.”

PCC Martyn Underhill said: “Young people may think that sexting is harmless.

“Some may not even consider the consequences at all, but the reality is that sending indecent images can leave young people vulnerable to blackmail and even a criminal record.

“I fully support this campaign which aims to ensure that the next generation is better informed of the dangers of sexting.”

The police has released the following advice on sexting:

  • Talk to your children about sexting, the law and the potential dangers of sexting
  • 9/10 selfies end up somewhere else online
  • It is illegal to take, send of receive ‘sexts’ off anyone under 18
  • Not all teenagers are doing it
  • If they’ve done it and it’s gone wrong, speak to an adult they trust.

If it has happened:

  • Stay calm and support your child
  • Take the device, don’t screenshot, don’t forward it on
  • Speak to your child’s school
  • Police will always help young people and safeguard them in the first instance

For more information, visit dorset.police.uk/sexting