POLICE are urging young people to not take indecent images of themselves or others after an increase in the reports of images of young people in little or no clothing.

Since December 1, police have received six reports of indecent images – mostly as a result of young people sharing images of themselves via social media.

Police said most of the images reported are from the social networking applications Snapchat and Kik. They said some of the children in the reported photographs are as young as ten years old.

All the cases have so far related to the Carlisle area.

Sgt Colin Ritchie, from the Public Protection Unit in north Cumbria for Cumbria Constabulary, said: “One of the main problems is that parents are often unaware of what apps and social networking sites their children are using. Technology moves quickly, but it is important for parents to stay up to date and set boundaries.

“It is also crucial that young people understand the dangers of 'sexting' – whether it is someone you know or someone you have ‘met’ online. It may just seem like a bit of fun, but the truth is once an image has been sent it can end up anywhere.

“Indecent images of children and teenagers can be used to bully, harass or even locate the person who sent the image. It’s not worth the risk.

“If anyone receives an indecent image or text do not send it on, and report it to a responsible adult. Technically, possessing an indecent image of another minor is a criminal offence and you could be breaking the law.”

Top tips for parents include: -

* Stay up-to-date. Ask about your child’s new gadgets, apps and websites – it is important to be aware of new technologies and developments that your child may be using

* Set boundaries. Treat the online world as you would the ‘real’ world – consider what or who they may see, share and communicate with, as well as how long they spend online

* Know what connects to the internet and how. Today many technologies connect to the internet – including TVs and games consoles. Check how they are accessing the internet – if it is through a neighbour’s Wifi, your security settings may not be applied

* Cyber-bullying can be very distressing and upsetting – talk to your child regularly about their experiences, both online and offline

For more information or advice please visit: http://www.cumbria.police.uk/advice-and-information/online-safety

If you are a young person and are upset or worried by an image you have sent or received, you can call ChildLine and talk to someone in confidence on 0800 1111.

If you know of an image of you or a friend is on a social networking site you will need to contact the provider (e.g. Facebook) to get it removed.

More advice can be found at www.vodafone.com/parents or www.thinkyouknow.co.uk.