Boy, 5, among thousands of children investigated by police for sexting and sending explicit pictures

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A five-year-old boy is among thousands of British children probed by police for sending explicit pictures or messages.

Police investigated more than 4,000 children for ‘sexting‘ in the last three years with nearly 400 of them aged under 12, figures uncovered by the BBC show. 

Sexting involves sending explicit messages or photographs to another person. It is illegal in the UK to take or share images of children under 18, even if it is a picture of yourself.

Among the figures was the shocking case of a five-year-old boy from County Durham, who was spoken to police after it was discovered he had been sending explicit messages. He is the youngest person ever investigated for sexting across England and Wales.

In another case, a boy aged 10 had been given a caution by Northumbria Police for sexting after he sent an explicit image of himself to an 11-year-old via social media.

It comes after Scotland Yard revealed in October last year that children as young as 10 were being pressured into sharing explicit pictures and videos of themselves online.

Detective Superintendent John Macdonald, from the force’s Sexual Offences, Exploitation and Child Abuse Command, said at the time that issues are “under-reported” and many children may not report it “because it’s so normal”.

In the wake of the latest figures, DCI Steve Thubron, from Durham Constabulary, told the BBC that the focus of the police intervention was to safeguard children.

He said: “We deal with incidents proportionately and obviously do not criminalise children.

“We have worked with other agencies to provide advice and guidance to both schoolteachers and young people.

“We would urge any children who are worried to speak with a trusted adult or call 101.”

In Greater Manchester, which had the highest rate of sexting among children, eight children aged seven and eight years old were probed by police.

Most of the children investigated nationwide by police for sexting were aged 13 or 14.

As of January 2016, if police in England and Wales find a young person has created or shared explicit images, officers can choose to record that a crime has been committed but decide that taking formal action is not in the public interest.

It means the incidences of sexting will not be added to the child’s criminal record.

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