British police force warns parents are liable if child caught 'sexting' on phone contracted to parents

British police force warns parents are liable if child caught 'sexting' on phone contracted to parents
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A charity has hit out at a police force in England which warned that parents could face arrest and have their homes raided if their children were caught "sexting".

Kent Police said it is a crime for a child to take or share an explicit image or video of themselves or anyone else under 18, and parents could be liable if their name is on the contract of the phone used.

But the NSPCC said the children should be supported, not criminalised.

Detective Superintendent Susie Harper said: "If a child's mobile phone contract is in his or her parent's name, then the parent can be liable for what the phone is used for, and any indecent material that is saved or sent from it.

"That could mean police turning up at the family home with a search warrant, property being seized, potential arrests and innocent people being suspected of serious offences."

Her comments were published by the force as part of a press release warning of a growing trend of "bait out" pages on social media - where young people are encouraged to share sexual images but are then shamed and bullied.

Police said officers are investigating after more than 40 children in Thanet alone had fallen victim to such a group on Snapchat since the beginning of January.

The release said: "Whilst the police do not wish to unnecessarily criminalise young people, this could potentially affect a child's reputation, education and future employment prospects; for example, if they are named on a crime report or receive a caution or other criminal sanction."

An NSPCC spokeswoman said: "Children who share a naked image of themselves should be taught why it's a bad idea, supported and safeguarded - certainly not branded criminals.

"We don't want to see the unnecessary criminalising of children, or parents whose son or daughter has been sexting.

"Once a child sends a picture of themselves they have no control over where it is shared or who sees it. That can leave a child feeling humiliated and even lead to them being bullied or blackmailed."

Ms Harper added: "I'm not raising awareness to scaremonger, and our first priority is to safeguard young people and protect them from harm, and there are many places we can signpost then to for independent help and advice.

"I also think it's important for parents to be aware about the ways their children might be vulnerable to these things and what they can do about it."

While the force said it was working with schools on the subject and urged parents to talk to children, Ms Harper said she appreciated it was a "very sensitive issue" to raise.

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