CHILDREN as young as 10 are experimenting with sexting and should be educated about its dangers, a leading charity has warned.
BoysTown, which runs the Kids Helpline counselling service, said sexting-related awareness and education campaigns should target children and young people aged 10 to 18.
Almost 500 young people across Australia contacted the service with sexting-related concerns between January and March this year, and more than 75 per cent were female.
Counselling sessions tended to be with people aged under 19, and one in three were aged 10 to 14 years.
“When sexting behaviour gets out of hand or, more specifically, sext images get into undesirable hands, the impacts of sexting can be multi-faceted and extreme,” said its submission to the Victorian Law Reform Committee’s inquiry into sexting.
“Young people can find themselves the victims of humiliation, bullying, harassment, threat, punishment and criminalisation.”
Melbourne’s Royal Children’s Hospital Gatehouse Centre for assessment and treatment of child abuse said it had seen a marked increase in the age range of participants, with some as young as 10 years.
Sexting has legal consequences if the person involved is under 18 years because it can be considered child pornography.
The inquiry heard from the mother of a teenager who was placed on the child sex offenders register after sharing images from a consensual video of he and his girlfriend having sex when both were 17.
He was given a $1000 fine and no conviction was recorded but was placed on the child sex offenders register for 15 years.
A submission prepared by the Salvation Army used the example of a teenage girl in the US who committed suicide after photos she sent to her boyfriend were sent to hundreds of people.
Outside of the inquiry, cyber-safety campaigner Nina Funnell said young people needed to be taught the ethical use of technology and how to preserve their own and others’ reputations.