Thousands of children across the United Kingdom — some as young as four years old — have been investigated by the police for “sexting” — that is, consensually sharing sexually explicit images of themselves with each other, The Guardian reports. In some cases, the children have even been given criminal records.
Laws against child pornography have been around for decades, intended to protect children from being sexually exploited and to punish those who would possess such images and/or share them with each other. However, teenagers — and in some cases preadolescent children — have been known to take sexually explicit photos of themselves and send them to each other, effectively making criminals out of them for doing something they don’t fully understand the gravity of.
In the U.S. and parts of Australia, such activity has been explicitly decriminalized, or at the very least is unlikely to be prosecuted in court. This is not the case in England and Wales, however. Taking sexually explicit photos of teenagers and/or children remains a crime there, regardless of the age of the person taking the photos. In fact, law enforcement is zealously prosecuting minors who have taken such pictures.