Police, teenagers and YouTube sensation join forces to warn about ‘sexting’ dangers

This week Cumbria Police have teamed up with students from Carlisle College to warn other young people of the dangers of ‘sexting’.

Saturday 18th March is National Child Sexual Exploitation Awareness Day, and this week police will be pushing out messages on a variety of social media platforms to warn young people of the potential consequences of sending indecent images of themselves.

Today will see the launch of a force Snapchat account (cumbriacops), and to mark the occasion media students aged 17-19 from Carlisle College are doing a ‘takeover’ of the account for the week.

Throughout the week, they will be telling the fictional story of a girl who agrees to send her boyfriend a naked photo of herself, and how this results in her being sexually exploited. The story will be available in the ‘stories’ section of the Cumbria Police Snapchat and will be updated by the students throughout the week.

The story will be directed, produced, and acted by the students. Following the week of snaps, the full story will be edited together, and released on social media.

Brad Mattinson, aged 17, from Temple Sowerby, will play the lead male role. Brad has a YouTube channel with over 58,000 followers, with some videos having over a million views. His Twitter account has over 60,000 followers.

An Instagram account (cumbriacops) will also be launched this week, with a ‘behind the scenes’ look at the Snapchat story on the Instagram Stories section.

On Thursday (16th March) there will be a Facebook Event in partnership with Cumbria LSCB, between 5-7pm, for parents who are concerned about their children’s online activities to ask questions and get advice.

DI Brian Murray said:

“We are really excited about this campaign, particularly the launch of our Snapchat and Instagram accounts. We know that these are increasingly popular apps for young people, and it make sense for us to go to where they spend their time in order to warn them about sexting.

“Today’s ‘selfie’ and ‘sexting’ culture is increasingly becoming a problem – young people now have easier access to the internet, through various devices, than ever before. As a result they are becoming exposed to pornography frequently and at a young age, which may influence how they see acceptable behaviour.

“I would like to remind them that once you have sent an image, you have forever lost control of it, and it could be used to bully, harass, or even locate you. My advice is if you would not willingly show your parents the photo then don’t send it.

“One of the main problems is that parents are often unaware of what apps and social networking sites their children are using. Technology moves quickly, but it is important for parents to stay up to date and set boundaries.”

Darren Horne, Media Lecturer, from Carlisle College said:

"This latest project with Cumbria Police builds on the Do The Right Thing Campaign that we were involved in last year, on the issue of sexual consent, and we are delighted to continue this relationship to cover the important issue of sexting. This project opens up the dialogue in a very modern way and is something that affects a lot of young people and it can have far-reaching consequences.   The students involved are excited to be part of this innovative approach to raising awareness, which complements our programme of activities on student welfare."

Police and Crime Commissioner Peter McCall said:

“This is an excellent way to get the message across to our young people about the dangers of sexting, because it comes from them! They are more aware of social media, sharing photographs and chatting online, and this campaign is highlighting the risks, even if it is amongst friends and people we know.”

Deborah Evans, Assistant Director for Children and Family Services, said:

“We’re fully behind this campaign, it’s really important that parents, carers, and children are aware of the risks involved in “sexting”, what sexual exploitation looks like and the harm it does. Giving children the right information so they can make informed decisions that keep themselves safe is a key part of this. We also need to ensure parents, and those professionals supporting children and families have the knowledge, confidence, and tools to spot the danger signs and take the right action.”

Gill Rigg, Independent Chair of the Cumbria Local Safeguarding Children Board, said:

“It’s vitally important that people are able to spot the signs and provide the right help and support if a child is at risk. The LSCB has worked relentlessly with partner organisations to raise awareness of the risk of CSE, and ensure that professionals working with children at risk of, or victims of, this type of crime are protected and supported. We’ve come a long way in Cumbria raising the profile of CSE risk, but there’s always more to do. This is an exciting campaign that looks certain to generate a lot of interest amongst children and their families.”

For more information or advice about CSE please visit: https://www.cumbria.police.uk/Advice-Centre/Personal-Safety/Child-Sexual-Exploitation.aspx 

If you are worried that someone you know may be a victim of sexual exploitation please call Cumbria Police on 101, or Crimestoppers anonymously, on 0800 555 111.

Alternatively if you have a concern about a child please contact the Cumbria Safeguarding Hub on 0333 240 1727.

If you are a young person and are upset or worried by an image you have sent or received, you can call ChildLine and talk to someone in confidence on 0800 1111.

If you know of an image of you or a friend is on a social networking site you will need to contact the service provider (e.g. Facebook) to get it removed.

More advice can be found at www.vodafone.com/parents or www.thinkyouknow.co.uk.

Follow Cumbria Police on Facebook and Twitter. Follow cumbriacops on Snapchat and Instagram.