Law firm Bolt Burdon Kemp says sexting is a form of child abuse in the digital age.

Parents must be extra vigilant when monitoring their children’s online behaviour to protect them from the dangers of sexting and child abuse.

With the popularity of mobile use, dating apps and picture messaging, sexting has become more prevalent in schools. Sometimes seen as a harmless trend, law firm Bolt Burdon Kemp’s #ChildAbuseInTheDigitalAge campaign stresses that sexting is highly dangerous and could open the floodgates to a new form of child abuse.

Bolt Burdon Kemp partner and specialist in the child abuse team David McClenaghan says:

“Sexting is becoming worryingly normalised among teens as more and more succumb to the dangerous trend.

“What might seem like teenagers harmlessly exploring their friendships with these pictures could be very dangerous. If these explicit or nude pictures are shared, they could fall into the hands of child abusers.

“We know that paedophiles are using modern technology as a means of accessing images of children. Children can be deceived into sharing images with adults posing as their peers.

“When sexting occurs between a child and an adult, it should rightly be seen as child abuse in the digital age.

“It can be the precursor to more serious physical abuse, but we shouldn’t forget that sexting between an child and an adult is child abuse in itself.

“Victims have every right to claim compensation for it”

Bolt Burdon Kemp set a precedent last year when the law firm secured £25,000 damages for a case involving sexting. The compensation was paid to the woman who, when she was 16, was encouraged to send naked photographs of herself to a teacher.

David, who represented the woman in the case, believes it’s likely more such cases will come to the fore, particularly with the increasing popularity of sexting among children.

“Parents shouldn’t ignore the sexting trend and how commonplace it has become among teens. Just as parents would speak to their teenagers about the dangers of drinking, smoking and underage sex, it’s crucial they discuss the dangers of sexting in order to safeguard them online,” David warns.

Children as young as 12 years of age have been found to be taking pictures of themselves and sending them to friends as a form of flirtation. Children may also send pictures due to peer pressure because ‘everyone else is doing it’.

However, once the picture is sent, the child has no control over where it goes. If it has been sent to a trusted friend or boyfriend/girlfriend, this could easily be shared among other friends and posted on social networking sites. Once online, the picture could get picked up by unsavoury adult sites.

Sexting can also be a part of online grooming, the pictures can be used by bullies at school, and images can even be used by organised online gangs as a form of blackmail.