Children as young as TEN are putting themselves at risk of bullying, paedophiles and even ARREST by sharing naked SELFIES, charities warned yesterday.
Experts said sexting – sending naked or erotic pictures to partners – is getting out of hand, and the number of youngsters whose rude pics go ‘viral’ is on the rise.
Anti-bullying charity Ditch the Label are being swamped with dozens of calls daily from concerned youngsters who have taken naked pictures of themselves, or shared naked pictures of pals, often using messaging services like Snap Chat or WhatsApp.
Founder Liam Hackett said: “There is a kind of a lad culture in which these pictures are almost seen as trading cards, where people collect these images of young people and show them round their friends.
“And that can spread out of control really quickly and often the person does not know anything about it.
“A lot of young people say they are experiencing these sorts of issues and find it really difficult to talk about because they find it embarrassing.
“Young people are going to extreme lengths as a way of coping; there are high rates of self-harm, high rates of abusing substances.”
Liam said the youngest child they had heard from regarding sexting was a ten-year-old girl.
A female student contacted the Brighton-based charity after she dropped out of college and developed severe social anxiety after an image of her was shared among classmates.
He said: “Somebody she trusted shared an image of her and it went viral around her college.
“I think the impact it can have on somebody’s self-esteem and welfare is underestimated.”
Snap Chat, the self-deleting photo-sharing app, is being blamed for the rise in the number of naked selfies, because users erroneously believe the pictures cannot be copied.
A 17-year-old girl, from Manchester, took a provocative picture of herself and sent it to a boy in her class.
But within minutes, the picture was posted on Facebook, where it was seen by most of their school.
The girl said: “I thought Snap Chat would be safe. I wasn’t naked or anything, but I liked this boy and wanted him to like me.
“I had no idea people could copy the pictures – I thought they were meant to be private and self-destruct after a few seconds.
“It left me hating my body, and as a result I developed an eating disorder.
“I’m still battling through that, but I still get nasty, spiteful comments from people I don’t even know.”
Police have warned youngsters that they could end up with a criminal record for sharing naked pictures of children.
Another charity Engage are working with three teenage girls in Crawley, West Sussex, whose boyfriends all shared sexual photos of them.
Expert Martha Steine said: “They send selfies to their boyfriends, not completely naked, but showing intimate parts of their bodies and these photos end up being shown to other boys in the boyfriends’ group.
“Sometimes these girls are finding out about their photo being shown around the school by their friends who have found out from a boy who has seen it.
“They are now reluctant to go to school and absence is becoming a real problem.”
She added: “This used to be flirting, but the flirting of a few years ago has turned into this.
“And the way teenagers flirt now is by sending photos to each other and there’s an increased pressure on youngsters to go along with this.
“The girls feel pressured by their girlfriends and by this culture.”