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Raymond Arthur 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. Young people have always explored their sexuality and shared these experiences with others. A lot of these young people will then go on to share these images with someone they know.

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These figures, suggest that sharing self-generated sexual images has become just another way for young people to express their sexual selves. But, for some young people, sexting can lead to criminal prosecution along with classification as a sex offender.

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It counts as an offence of distributing an indecent image of and meets the legal definition of child pornography. And this year alone, across the UK the police have investigated thousands of children for sexting including a five-year-old boy in County Durham, and a year-old boy who was cautioned by Northumbria Police. A stark illustration of how cruel the criminal law has become in this regard is illustrated by the example of 12 year old girl in the south of England who was being groomed online by a paedophile.

The girl was pressured to send him topless photos. The paedophile cannot be found as he was using an anonymous Instagram. But the police have told the girl that she may face criminal charges and a criminal record for creating and sharing explicit images of despite the fact she has been the victim of grooming.

In this way, nude selfie upload very laws which were intended to protect children from abuse and exploitation are now being used to punish children.

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This could then affect future access to education, employment, travel and housing — among a whole host of other things. All of these reports of increases in sexual offences among children have been accompanied by a cry for better sex education on both the laws on sexual behaviour, but also on topics like sexting and pornography.

For now at least, sexting is here to stay.

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Because technically even though the age of consent is 16, the age for distributing indecent images is So although 17 year-olds can legally have sex, they cannot legally send a naked image. It is clear then that consensual youth sexting should be treated as a separate and distinct behaviour from child pornography. Instead, young people should be free to express their sexual selves as they desire. Be Curious — Leeds, Leeds. Edition: Available editions United Kingdom. Raymond ArthurNorthumbria University, Newcastle.

Children Sex Teenagers Sexting Sexual offence.

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