Teenagers at a college in Burnley at a workshop warning about the dangers of sexting. Photograph: Jon Super for the Guardian

Sexting – the sending and receiving of nude pictures and sexually explicit text messages – is increasingly becoming normal among teenagers, who often don’t realise they may be acting illegally and could face police action, according to the government’s Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre.

The true scale of young people’s sexting activity is unclear, but Ceop is notified of a serious incident on average about once a day, with reports coming from schools, parents or pupils. All involve serious concerns about child protection.

Kate Burls, education team coordinator at Ceop, a command of the National Crime Agency, said: “Working with young people, we are finding that sexting increasingly feels like a norm in terms of behaviour in their peer group.”

The former secondary school teacher said: “There’s no one kind of sexting incident. In some incidents you might have clear elements of coercion and pressure and it may well be appropriate for a school to confiscate a phone because it may contain evidence of a criminal offence.”

In September, the legal risks were made clear when a 14-year-old boy was told his details would be held on a police database for 10 years for the crime of making and distributing an indecent image of a child. He had sent a naked image of himself to a classmate.

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Source: Sexting Becoming ‘the Norm’ for Teens, Warn Child Protection Experts