ONE in four children send or receive sexually explicit photos or messages on mobile phones, a leading psychologist has claimed.
The Department of Education has confirmed it is developing a programme for junior and senior second-level students on "personal safety" as the problem of 'sexting' continues.
Forensic psychologist Dr Maureen Griffin said sexting must be covered in this topic and called for guidance on the issue in the new sex education programme planned for schools next autumn. She says it's extremely important this issue is covered in the lesson plan.
Her call follows moves in the UK, where Education Secretary Michael Gove bowed to pressure from teachers, parents and sexual health experts to update sex education in schools to include the dangers of online pornography and sexting.
Dr Griffin stressed that while parents have a primary role in monitoring their children's phone use, schools are increasingly faced with the problems.
Sexting, along with phone and internet pornography, is "rife among school children from third class upwards and sometimes even younger", said Dr Griffin.
She said children using social media like Snapchat "don't understand the wider implications of what they are doing".
"They think once they send the picture it's gone and don't understand that someone can take a screenshot ... and send it on," Dr Griffin said.
"They are distanced from sending these pictures because they are only pushing buttons on their phone and it removes them from thinking about the consequences."