By Ann Coffey MP - 25th April 2012
Ann Coffey MP calls for mobile phone companies to be held to account following a shocking increase in 'sexting' among children.
Mobile phone companies should do more to warn young people about the dangers of "sexting" – which according to one charity Beatbullying has now reached "epidemic" proportions amongst children and young people.
Sexting involves the sharing of suggestive images and messages electronically primarily between mobile phones and usually between one young person and another.
According to Ofcom 88 per cent of young people aged 12 to 15 now have a mobile phone.
However many young people are unaware that 'sexting' can carry great risks. Images may be passed on leading to public humiliation, sexual bullying, blackmail, sexual exploitation and sexual grooming.
According to a campaign run in my local newspaper, the Manchester Evening News, two schools a week are now turning to e-safety groups for help with 'sexting' incidents. The link between sexting and sexual grooming, where someone is enticed to do something they don't want to do, is becoming increasingly apparent.
I am very concerned that 'sexting' is becoming a tool for sexual grooming and the Children's Society and the NSPCC have told me that their practitioners around the country are finding that it is a growing method of sexually grooming young people.
In my debate I will be asking the mobile phone industry, which makes huge profits from the sale of mobile phones, to provide cash for leaflets to be issued with each new mobile phone warning of the dangers of 'sexting' and to provide training for sales staff on how to advise on the risks. I also want to see the mobile phone industry providing cash for advertising on TV and in the newspapers to help raise awareness and also help promote NSPCC's ChildLine.
The gambling industry provides funding for education and treatment of problem gambling and the drinks industry funds the charity Drinkaware. So why shouldn't the phone industry do something similar?
We must do what we can to educate and inform children and young people about the risks of 'sexting' so that their choices are based on an understanding of the consequences of their actions. The phone companies must take their share of the responsibility to do that.
Ann Coffey has been Labour MP for Stockport since 1992.