Parents have been warned they face arrest if their children send sexually explicit images from their mobile phones.

Kent Police are advising parents to tell their children of the dangers of sexting and other forms of sending explicit photos.

Sending and receiving such messages could have an effect on the children's emotional health and wellbeing, the police warn.

They said that investigations would often focus on the person responsible for the phone contract if that phone was used to send explicit messages or images.

Detective Superintendent Susie Harper said: "If a child's mobile phone contract is in his or her parent's name, then the parent can be liable for what the phone is used for, and any indecent material that is saved or sent from it.

"That could mean police turning up at the family home with a search warrant, property being seized, potential arrests and innocent people being suspected of serious offences.

"I'm not raising awareness to scaremonger. Our first priority is to safeguard young people and protect them from harm. There are many places we can signpost them to for independent help and advice.

"It's important for parents to be aware about the ways their children might be vulnerable to these things and what they can do about it."

The warning formed part of a wider campaign by Kent Police on the rise of so-called 'bait-out' groups on social media where sexual images of children get shared between large groups of people in order to shame and bully the victims.

An investigation has found that 40 children who have sent nude photos of themselves have ended up on a 'bait-out' group on Snapchat since the start of 2018.

An NSPCC spokesperson said: "Children who share a naked image of themselves should be taught why it's a bad idea, supported and safeguarded - certainly not branded criminals.

"We don't want to see the unnecessary criminalising of children, or parents whose son or daughter has been sexting.

"Once a child sends a picture of themselves they have no control over where it is shared or who sees it. That can leave a child feeling humiliated and even lead to them being bullied or blackmailed."

A Kent Police spokesperson said: "The police do not wish to unnecessarily criminalise young people. This could potentially affect a child's reputation, education and future employment prospects, for example if they are named on a crime report or receive a caution or other criminal sanction."

A young person will be breaking the law if they:

  • Take an explicit (nude or nearly nude) photo or video of themselves or a friend if they are below the age of 18.
  • Share an explicit image or video of a child, even if it's shared between children of the same age.
  • Possess, download or store an explicit image or video of a child, even if the child gave their permission for it to be created.