Schoolchildren who send explicit pictures of themselves via mobile phone could end up with a criminal record, police have said.
The warning comes after a teenage girl received a police caution for texting a topless photo to her boyfriend.
The boy received the same penalty because he forwarded the picture to his friends after the couple broke up.
Nottinghamshire Police, who investigated the incident, said the pair had committed the offence of sharing an indecent image of a child.
The case, which came to light this week, has prompted police to warn pupils about the dangers of ‘sexting’ – which is becoming increasingly common among under 18s.
Although the couple were not prosecuted in this instance, officers have said that some cases could proceed to court. A teenager found guilty of distributing an indecent image could be placed on the sex offenders register, even if the photo they sent was of themselves.
Det Sgt Jan Rusdale, from Nottinghamshire Police’s sexual exploitation investigation unit, said that the offence would be taken seriously.
Research by the NSPCC suggests that a quarter of all teenagers have shared explicit photos via their mobile phone. The charity said that girls in particular were often under pressure from their boyfriend to send the pictures.
Some have criticised the heavy-handed approach to the problem, arguing that it is better to teach children about the dangers of ‘sexting’. Earlier this year, Prime Minister David Cameron suggested that sex education classes needed to be updated to deal with “modern problems” created by new technology.