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Mobile firms challenged on sexting

Mobile phone firms should stump up cash to warn youngsters about the dangers of "sexting", an MP has said.

Labour MP Ann Coffey called on the industry to caution young people about how sexually suggestive photographs can soon become public and be used to blackmail.

She said: "Sexting becomes a tool of coercion, threat and power as young people are encouraged to take pictures or videos or themselves, initially often for a financial reward or because they are groomed into thinking the person is their boyfriend."

She continued: "A key problem is that young people see the texts as harmless fun but they quickly led to sexualised conversations and grooming. Because it is not face-to-face interaction, young people will also behave in a different way without realising the risks they are exposing themselves to until it is too late."

The Stockport MP pointed to research showing nearly two in five British schoolchildren had received an offensive or distressing sexual image via text or email.

A survey of teachers in 2010 revealed that more than 54% were aware of pupils creating and sharing explicit messages and images via mobile phones or the internet.

Ms Coffey wants phone companies to offer young people advice leaflets with each new mobile phone sold and demanded that firms provide extra training for shop workers selling phones and fund television and newspaper adverts promoting helplines for victims.

Speaking ahead of a Westminster Hall debate she is due to lead designed to press the Government into action, she added: "The mobile phone industry has a responsibility, bearing in mind the profits they make and the targeting they do of young people to buy their products, to set aside money to inform young people of the risks of sexting.

"This leaflet should explain how, at the click of a button, an image intended for private use can lead to public humiliation and even fall into the hands of sophisticated sexual predators."

NSPCC sexual abuse programme head Jon Brown said: "Sexting is a growing problem which is putting many young girls at risk... It's time there was better education on this issue so children understand the risk and have the confidence to deal with this kind of pressure."

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