Young school girls are putting themselves in danger of bullying and sexual abuse by sending explicit photographs of themselves by text message.
“Sexting” will be debated by MPs later as child safety experts warn the practice is a growing problem in Britain’s schools.
Jon Brown, the head of the NSPCC’s Sexual Abuse programme says sexting is putting children at risk.
“We have unearthed a lot of evidence that girls as young as 12 are being pressured into sending explicit photographs to boyfriends,” he said.
“Once they have given someone a ‘sexy’ picture of themselves, they have no control over it.”
Two students at Darlington College told Sky News they had sent what they now know to be inappropriate pictures of themselves to their boyfriends when they were 14.
Hayley Pritchard, now 18, says she escaped lightly, but regrets doing it.
“I haven’t had people sending them around or anything, but I’ve seen it from a friend’s perspective where she’s had pictures sent around,” she explained.
21-year-old Danielle Wheller sent explicit photos to her boyfriend seven years ago.
“I knew the dangers, I knew what was going on, I never really got bullied so I didn’t really think nothing of it,” she said.
With what she knows now, Danielle would advise any younger girl not to do it.
“You get ridiculed, you get yourself a bad name, you get inappropriate comments,” she said.
“People don’t know you but because they’ve seen that certain picture they’re just judgemental and you get a wrong name.”
According to the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre, 38% of 11-17 year olds said they had received a sexually explicit text or email and 70% of them knew the sender.
MP Ann Coffey, who is raising the dangers of sexting in an adjournment debate, said she is being asked for help from up to two schools a week.
“The most important thing is for young people themselves to be aware of the dangers,” she said.
“I am asking the phone companies to provide finance so that at the point of sale they will get a leaflet saying you need to be aware if you upload images this is what can happen.”