There has been much talk this year on how, what and when to broach the subject of sex with our children. The latest campaign from Thinkuknow, which involves mini movies, aims to tackle the issue of sexting head on.
It has leapfrogged the age old tradition of the ‘coming of age’ chat that takes place between parents and their offspring.
It has had to because but the internet has escalated childhood curiosity to such an extent that how we handle the topic of issues such as sexting and nude selfies, and at an earlier, age is the big question on everyone’s lips.
Thinkuknow is an education programme from the National Crime Agency’s CEOP (Child Exploitation and Online Protection) Command and has become a real talking point online but still needs to feed down to grassroots schools and parents.
Since 2006, Thinkuknow has worked to keep children and young people safe by providing education about sexual abuse and sexual exploitation. CEOP is a command of the National Crime Agency and works to pursue and prosecute child sex offenders.
It works with child protection partners across the UK and overseas to identify the main threats to children and coordinates activity against these threats to bring offenders to account. We protect children from harm online and offline, directly through NCA led operations and in partnership with local and international agencies.
The latest government-backed literature aims to teach its readers about safeguarding issues in the classroom and how to help prevent harm by providing young people with skills, attributes and knowledge to help them navigate risks. Addressing sensitive issues promotes a whole school approach to safeguarding, giving young people the space to explore key issues and the confidence to seek the support of adults should they encounter problems.
Keeping Children Safe in Education statutory guidance states that schools ‘should ensure children are taught about safeguarding, including online, through teaching and learning opportunities’.
It comes at a time when there is huge concern for schools and colleges in handling cases where children and young people produce and share sexual photos and videos of themselves, often referred to as ‘sexting’.
Produced by the UK Council for Child Internet Safety (UKCCIS) for use by safeguarding leaders, headteachers and senior leadership teams in schools and colleges in England, it totally embraces a very candid approach to talking about what problems can arise. It aims to support schools in developing procedures to respond confidently and quickly to incidents involving ‘youth produced sexual imagery’.
The first step is to find out more about what your child may encounter online. You might want to know why young people access online pornography or send nude selfies, and at what point you should be concerned.
Knowing the facts, understanding the risks, learning where to get help and, most importantly, recognising young people’s motivations can help you feel more confident in starting that all important ongoing conversation with your child.
Practical steps such as setting up parental controls or changing privacy settings for an app are important actions you can take to help keep your child safe. But remember, controls and filters are only one part of digital parenting.
The most important thing you can do to build your child’s – and your own – confidence and resilience against online risk is to have open and ongoing conversations about sex and relationships with your child and to make sure they know that you will always give them the support they need:
Top tips for anyone using the site:
- Learn how to respond to incidents
- Find out the most appropriate way to handle devices and imagery
- Effectively assess risk
- Decide when to involve other agencies
- Decide how you will record incidents
- Think about whether and when you should involve parents or carers
The final word comes from Sarah Carlick, founder and managing director of The Athena Programme:
“The reason I founded The Athena Programme in the first place was to create better understanding and awareness within communities for the need to protect our young and vulnerable.
The only way they can do that to 100% of their ability is to understand why and how things go wrong, how to recognise the signs and how to act on their findings in a positive and meaningful way. The same applies with these latest guidelines on sexting. If parents and schools, for instance, don’t know the information available to them, what goes on when their child or pupil is online, how are they ever going to know what needs to happen to make their online experience a good one? I applaud the new campaign and all it hopes to achieve”.