The Labour party has called for the government to do more to educate the “smartphone generation”, after new data reveals a 3,000% increase in sexting among under-16s.
New figures obtained through a Freedom of Information request show that police in England investigated over 13 times as many cases of sexting among under-16s last year as they did in 2013 – in 2015, 193 under-16s were investigated, a rise from just six in 2013.
In light of the new figures, Labour has shunned the Conservative government for “refusing to protect” the younger generation from the dangers of online communication, highlighting that sexting among young people is “skyrocketing”.
Under the national curriculum, children above the age of 11 are currently required to attend sex education classes, with the exception of academies.
Parents are also currently allowed to voluntarily withdraw their children from classes where certain areas of the subject are being taught.
In its response, Labour has noted how the government’s official guidance to all schools on sex education has not been updated since “before the smartphone generation were even born”, and does therefore not apply to them.
Rise in underage people on dating apps
Since 2010, the number of police incidents involving children sharing explicit images or messages in the UK has increased by almost 7,000%.
The rise in children sending explicit messages has been linked to the growing concern that young people are using false, older ages in order to sign up to popular dating apps like Tinder and Grindr.
According to an article by BT, children as young as 13 are now using Tinder, with a survey revealing that one in six teenagers use the app daily.
Speaking about Labour’s commitment to preventing incident among young people, Manchester Central MP and the Shadow Education Secretary, Lucy Powell said: “Youngsters are being pushed into adult territory well before they are ready.
“Sexting among children is skyrocketing, they are easily straying into sinister corners of the internet leaving them vulnerable to exploitation, and shockingly children as young as 13 are starting to use dating and hook-up apps.
“Far more needs to be done to equip young people with the resilience and knowledge they need to stay healthy and safe in relationships both off and online, and to spot the signs and feel confident to report manipulation and exploitation.”
The party is now urging the government to make personal, social, health and economic (PSHE) classes, which involve sex education, statutory.
And the government has now pledged to keep the subject’s status under review.
Last December, a legal precedent in a sexting case was set in the UK for the first time, during a case centred around a woman who was encouraged to send explicit photos of herself to her teacher, when she was 16 years old.
In the groundbreaking case, the woman received £25,000 in compensation, meaning that anyone can now bring a claim of compensation to a court, if they were encouraged or manipulated into sending or receiving explicit messages or images.
Learn more about the landmark case here.