We have previously raised concerns in the media about self-generated sexual imagery. In this article, we unpack the issue and bring you top tips on supporting children and young people by keeping control of images.

What is Self-Generated Child Sexual Abuse Material?

Self-generated child sexual abuse material (also referred to as self-generated sexually explicit material) can be understood as naked or semi-naked images or videos created by a child or young person depicting sexual activity. These may be shared consensually and forwarded on or obtained maliciously by offenders and uploaded to other sites.

What do we know?

  • Europol has warned that it is highly likely there will be a sharp increase in the amount of self-generated sexual images, which could lead to an increase in online exploitation within the next year (2021)
  • Referrals from the public and industry reached record highs during the peak months of the pandemic

  • Child Sexual Abuse Material (CSAM) has been detected at record levels during the COVID-19 pandemic within Europe. US authorities have warned of a 106% increase across the world

  • Offenders are likely to use existing images of children and young people to threaten children and young people into sharing more of their own abuse, by threatening to share the victim’s images with their social networks

What to do if you’re worried a child or young person has shared an image online

It’s helpful to understand what you can do if a child or young person in your care loses control of an image before it happens. You might want to talk to the children in your care about who they would talk to if they were worried about something online. You might hear ‘what goes online stays online’but this is not true and can remove all sense of hope from a child.

Practical Tips on Taking Back Control

Here are some practical steps you can use if a child tells you that they have lost control of an image:

  • Support the child in your care to understand what’s happened and thank them for telling you, explain that there are some steps you can take together to ask for the image to be removed

  • You should encourage the child to seek support from Childline who can explain the process – adults can speak to the NSPCC Adults Helpline for support

  • If possible, try to gather a list of where the image has appeared or who has received it

  • Adults can make an online report to CEOP (Child Exploitation and Online Protection Command), or contact their local police force for support if they have concerns a child is being groomed or sexually abused online

  • Adults can also report the URL of images for removal directly to the Internet Watch Foundation

  • Do not copy or send the image to anyone, even the police – the image will constitute an indecent image of a child and should not be shared or saved

  • Young people can upload their own image or URL to the Internet Watch Foundation’s Portal via their Childline account for removal

  • If you have concerns about the immediate safety of a child, you should call 999 (emergency number)

A URL is the web address for online content. This could be a video, image, post or a web page (like the one you’re reading this on!). There are different ways you can copy a URL to report it:

  • Click the URL at the top of a web browser window, select all of the text, right click and select ‘copy’
  • Right click an image and select “copy image address”
  • Click the three dots (…) on an Instagram post and select “Copy Link”

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For more information check out the ‘sexting’ section of your Safer Schools App.

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