A free anti-sexting app from Childline is using humour to help teenagers deal with unwanted requests for sexual images of themselves.
The app arrives as the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) reveal they dealt with 2,634 calls about sexting and self-generated explicit images in the past year. Sexting was also the most viewed topic on the Childline website in the past 12 months.
The app, called Zipit, offers young people a gallery of images and GIFs they can send in response to requests for sexual pictures and to deal with difficult sexting situations.
One 14-year-old girl told an NSPCC counsellor: “I sent some naked pictures of myself to a boy that I was talking to online. I really regret it now because he took screenshots and says that he’ll show them to all my friends. I don’t know how to report him, I really don’t want my family to find out.”
Many young people feel pressured into sending sexual images of themselves and don’t always have the confidence to say no
The children’s charity say many young people feel pressured sending sexual images of themselves and don’t always have the confidence to say no. Once a teenager sends an image of themselves they have no control over where it is shared or who sees it, and sometimes images can end up online. “This can leave a child feeling humiliated and even lead to them being bullied or blackmailed. By using humour, Zipit helps young people take control of online chatting that becomes awkward or pressurised and support them if something goes wrong,” said Peter Wanless, CEO of NSPCC.
Sexting is also becoming an increasing concern for UK law enforcement. Childline founder Dame Esther Rantzen said: “Senior police tell me that sexting has become normalised for far too many young people, so many teenagers feel pressurised into sending explicit pictures of themselves. There is a real danger that they feel desperately humiliated, and it can sometimes result in them being abused or bullied into handing over money to prevent these images being shown to school friends or family members.”
Originally launched in 2013 in partnership with London-based creative network Livity, Zipit and has adapted to introduce GIFs co-created with 11-17-year-olds to help empower young people to defuse difficult and potentially damaging conversations. The app also includes advice on safe online chatting and what young people should do if they feel threatened or if an image becomes public.
If a young person is worried about an image they have shared, they can visit childline.org.uk/remove and follow the steps to have the image taken down from the internet.
Childline is available on Freephone 0800 1111 24/7 or at www.childline.org.uk for counselling chat, emails or message boards.