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Sexting has landed a 14-year-old in a police database for child pornography

Some mistakes have the nasty habit of following you around, even if they’re made with the most innocent of intentions. And while total innocence may not quite be the case in one 14-year-old’s adolescent faux pas, he certainly couldn’t have intended for his sexy Snapchat to land him in a police database for “making and distributing an indecent image of a child.”

In what may be the most dreadful consequence of teenage hormones, the boy, whose identity has not been released, learned that sending a nude selfie to a female classmate (who subsequently made a screenshot of the image and further distributed it) is no laughing matter. While no one has been formally charged or arrested in connection with the incident, both the boy, the female student, and another minor were named in a crime report, and their names may remain in the criminal database for up to 10 years.

The longevity of these records means that the teens may see future job prospects affected by a decade-old mistake, and needless to say, the young man involved has been described by his mother as being “very embarrassed” by the entire scenario.

“Simon [name changed] was very embarrassed,” the mother said, when speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today on Thursday, “I asked him what had happened, he was in his bedroom at his dad’s the night before, he was flirting with a girl, and he sent a picture of himself via something called Snapchat. I didn’t even know what Snapchat was.”

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“Simon” himself added, “You hear from a few people who have done it every week, it just feels like something to do. I shouldn’t have done it. It’s just annoying really, something that I did when I was 14 could reflect badly in future.” Indeed, the unintended consequences of what he thought to be an innocuous, commonplace activity reflects the very different environment in which children born into the digital age are growing up. Had the individuals involved been just a bit older (over 18), by British law, the distribution by the female recipient of his naked image would’ve been classified as revenge porn, and the boy would’ve been considered the victim in a potential lawsuit.

“At best,” his mother noted, “he was naive and at worst he was just a teenager.” But the consequences for naïveté and youthful ignorance have changed significantly in the 21st century. As Anne Longfield, the children’s commissioner for England, told The Guardian, “Helping children to understand the consequences of inappropriate images of both themselves as senders and receivers is vital. Parents and schools have a very important role in explaining the consequences of sexting and sending illicit images of themselves or other young people.”

So think before you hit send, friends. Even a fleeting image can have lasting effects.