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Nikki Godden-Rasul does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment. The problem is that this is not just often regrettable in their own eyes, but also illegal in the eyes of the law. The police investigating said no charges were brought as it was not in the public interest.
But the boy was informed that this record may, despite the lack of conviction or charges, be revealed by advanced criminal records checks. Children are unnecessarily criminalised, and the broad scope of criminal law discourages schools from educating teenagers about when sharing sexual images may be harmful or a harmless part of teenage sexual exploration. Whether part of growing up or not, teens need to know that all sexting could be seen as potentially criminal.
This all-encompassing sweep of the law is recognised as a problem, so CPS guidance limits the prosecution of teenagers sharing images of themselves when they are not causing harm to others. For instance, the approach of the Association of Chief Police Officers is to safeguard children over bringing prosecutions, and in this case the investigating police said no one was arrested or interviewed under caution. Nevertheless, as the school exercised its discretion to report the incident to the police it was recorded as a crime.
While the school says pupils were informed that this was their policy , the boy in question says he was not aware of this, nor of the consequences of admitting his actions — something he did with police present and without any form of adult representation. This case also raises questions about the scope of offences involving the making and distribution of sexual or intimate images. In particular, how a provision in the Protection of Children Act regarding child pornography, deed to protect children, is being used to criminalise them.
The problem is that the law captures incidents that may not be harmful, and distorts the kinds of harm caused in particular circumstances. Teenage sexting is not a problem because it involves naked images of minors. It is a problem when the sharing of sexual images is used in an abusive way. In this case, for example, if the boy sent the image with the intention of causing distress, as an act of harassment, then this would constitute harm. In fact this more accurately depicts the situation — of more immediate concern to the boy than his record is the humiliation he feels at school that numerous schoolmates have seen the image, and repeatedly refer to it.
However, no such offence was recorded. Criminalising young people for making or distributing such images without taking into the context only serves to draw attention away from really harmful behaviour — either among teenagers , or from those who might prey upon them. Young people need to be informed of the law, its implications for sexting, and understand what constitutes ethical and unethical behaviour involving the sharing of sexual images.
The sexualisation of women and girls too, means images of them are treated differently to that of men and boys. Be Curious — Leeds, Leeds. Edition: Available editions United Kingdom. Nikki Godden-Rasul , Newcastle University. Smartphones sex education Sexting UK police.Sexting kiks
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Sexting: Is it Safe Sex?