Every day, at least one case of under-age sexting lands on the desk at the Child Protection Investigation Unit in Rockhampton, central Queensland. Sexting is the sending, receiving, or forwarding, of sexually explicit messages, photographs or videos via mobile phone. It falls to Detective Sergeant Angus Kerr and his team to handle these cases, and he said the children involved were becoming younger and younger, which was disappointing.
“We get one or two a day, every day, on an average,” Detective Sgt Kerr said.
“It doesn’t necessarily shock me; I’ve been doing this job for quite a while now, so not too much shocks me anymore.”
In a typical scenario, a child accumulates explicit images of themselves over a few months and creates a private folder. These are uploaded to a section of social media app Snapchat called ‘For your eyes only’. The child then gives the login details and password of his or her account to someone they like and this allows the other person to view the photographs. That person then tells three of their friends about the account and shares the details, and they all view the images.
Kids breaking the law
It is illegal for anyone under the age of 16 to send sexually explicit pictures, even if the child themselves is the victim.
“If a 12-year-old takes a naked photo of themselves [and] sends it to another person, they commit the offence of making child exploitation material, possessing it and distributing it,” Detective Sgt Kerr said.
If the case goes to court, that child could end up on the child sex offender register, an unlike event but it could happen, he said.
“When they’re children, there’s a lot of factors that go into [police] making a decision,” Detective Sgt Kerr said.
Court is the last resort with other options being police taking no action, offering a caution or having the child attend a youth justice conference. But are kids aware of the law?
Laws relating to children:
- In most circumstances, sexting between adults is not a criminal offence;
- In all cases, sexting between an adult and a child under the age of 16 is a criminal offence and all matters will end up in court;
- In all cases, sexting between children under the age of 16 is an offence, however not all matters end up in court. – Source: Queensland Police Service
By Inga Stünzner
Photo Source – ABC.net.au