Hampshire Constabulary is running an educational competition as part of our Police Apprentice initiative

Protecting young people from the life-changing dangers of sharing sexual pictures is the focus of a challenge set for local schools by police.

Hampshire Constabulary encouraged students to submit ideas for a public campaign that can communicate and educate the importance of safer behaviour on smartphones and online devices; avoiding an act often known as ‘sexting’.

A competition for secondary schools to create concepts started in June, and finished with a finals event on Friday, November 18 (national children's takeover day) as part of Hampshire Constabulary’s established Police Apprentice Initiative, part of its Safe4me education programme.

The project is receiving support from influential national child safety organisations including the NSPCC (National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children) and the National Crime Agency’s Child Exploitation Online Protection command (CEOP).

The purpose of this competition

Hampshire Constabulary’s School and Youth Engagement Coordinator PC Maria Carrick said:

“The concerns and consequences over these types of pictures are not always understood or reported by children. We know this from the regular work Hampshire Constabulary does with local schools and young people already

“Education in schools and colleges is crucial for young people to make informed, positive choices to avoid themselves and their peers becoming involved in such behaviour, which can have life-changing and criminal consequences.”

Improving the understanding of the law and effects of sexting

A recent survey of more than 900 students in local schools conducted by Hampshire Constabulary produced the following responses:

● 13 per cent (of 862 who answered this question) did not think it was against the law for young people aged under 18 to take, send or share naked selfies or images of a sexual nature.
● 17 per cent (of 862 who answered this question) were not sure.
● More than a third (36 per cent of 852 who answered this question) of students surveyed said they or someone they knew had been involved directly or affected by sexting.
● When asked if they would know what to do if sexual or naked images of you or a friend were shared with others or used against you, 40 per cent (of 851 who answered this question) said no.

Involving and inspiring students in schools

PC Maria Carrick added:

“The experiences and opinions of young people are vital to give police an insight into the most effective ways to solve problems with credibility and mutual respect.

“I’m pleased and grateful this competition has involved students and their teachers in a way that’s inspired them to use imagination and innovation while learning about the law and safer choices. Our thanks to all the students taking part; they are a positive influence to others of their age.”

Schools and their ideas selected for finals event

Dozens of local schools expressed interest in taking part in a competition when the idea was suggested earlier this year.

Shortlisting of the entries for the final was completed by a panel consisting of police officers from Hampshire Constabulary’s Strategic Partnerships team, volunteer police cadets and members of Hampshire’s Youth Commission.

Six schools were contenders to be the winners in the competition final, which was held at Hampshire Constabulary’s southern support & training HQ on Friday, November 18, in participation of the national children commissioner’s takeover day.

All six finalists with the judges (L to R): DCC Sara Glen, Gordon Ross, Jenny Robertson, Dr Julia Fossi, Sophie Smith.

The selection of a winner

The winners of the competition were a group of students from Robert May’s School in Odiham for their original animated concept that warned of nude and sexual pictures spreading like ‘Wildfire’ once shared.

One of the judges, Hampshire Constabulary’s Deputy Chief Constable Sara Glen said:  “We thought all the entries were phenomenal, it was a very difficult judgement call. The reason why the winner was chosen was because of their inclusiveness. We were particularly inspired by the fact that you were thinking about people within our communities who might be more likely to be targeted by sexting, and perhaps don’t have a voice. We also liked how you bonded as a team, and everybody within your team had a particular distinct role.”

Robert May’s School now has the opportunity to work with Hampshire Constabulary to produce a campaign that delivers key messages to young people about the implications of sexting.

Reaction from Robert May’s School

Teacher Kathleen Wingfield from Robert May’s School watched her students collect first prize. She said: “We’re so proud of the students for the innovative skills, dedication and cooperation they displayed in both creating and presenting their campaign proposal. It’s really important that young people have these opportunities because of the true insights and respected influences they bring to solving issues affecting their age group. I hope their vivid and inclusive idea can have a positive effect on more young people being safer and stronger in the decisions they take when using technology to connect with their peers.”

Fellow finalists recognised for their talents

Two runners-up were named during the final. They were Applemore Technology College in Southampton (Key Stage Three), and Woodlands Community College in Southampton (Key Stage Four).

Concepts from the further three finalists also received praise; they were students from Purbrook Park School in Waterlooville, Springfield School in Portsmouth, and Test Valley School in Stockbridge.

All schools shortlisted for the final now qualify to receive a sexting awareness education roadshow named Is It Worth It? This is provided by renowned national youth projects agency Amelix.

The final's judging panel was:

● The NSPCC’s acting head of child safety online, Doctor Julia Fossi
● CEOP command education officer, Jenny Robertson
● BAFTA award-winning game designer, Gordon Ross
● Hampshire Constabulary Deputy Chief Constable, Sara Glen
● Hampshire and Isle of Wight Youth Commission member, Sophie Smith

Julia Fossi, of the NSPCC, said: “Although not all children are taking part in sexting, we know through calls to Childline and our own research that many experience pressure to get involved. Those that do are particularly vulnerable. 

“Young people understand the pressures to take part in sexting better than anyone else and it is therefore essential that they are involved in helping to come up with the solutions.

“The sexting prevention competition is a fantastic opportunity which empowers young people to support their peers around this important issue.”

CEOP command education officer, Jenny Robertson, said: “CEOP is delighted to take part in the judging panel for this competition. We deal day-to-day with cases in which young people find themselves at risk as a consequence of ‘sexting’, and support professionals, parents and carers who are concerned about their children and young people producing and sharing sexual photos and videos of themselves.”

Gordon Ross said: “Even best friends change allegiances. Nothing digital is 100 per cent private, so my advice would be to not send anything you wouldn’t be happy for your family to see.”

A winner and two runners-up will be decided and announced at the conclusion of the finals event. The school crowned champions will have the opportunity to work with Hampshire Constabulary to develop their idea into a professional public media campaign to be launched in conjunction with World Safer Internet Day on February 7, 2017.

Schools shortlisted for the final also qualify to receive a ‘sexting awareness’ education roadshow named ‘Is It Worth It?’ provided by renowned national youth projects agency Amelix.

PC Maria Carrick added:  “The amount of support we’re receiving from experienced child safety professionals is tremendous and appreciated. The co-operation underlines just how important this work is to making future generations safer online with knowledge that enables more young people to take greater responsibility for the decisions they make while growing up.”

You can read more information about the Police Apprentice initiative by clicking here.