Educating Young Children About Sharing Nudes and Semi-Nudes: A Guide for Early Years Educators

In today’s digital world, even young children are increasingly exposed to technology and online interactions. As early years educators, it’s crucial to address the topic of sharing nudes and semi-nudes with sensitivity and care. This guide provides strategies and insights to help you educate young children about online safety and the responsible sharing of images.

What do we mean by sharing nudes and semi-nudes?

In the latest advice for education settings (UKCIS, 2024), sharing nudes and semi-nudes is defined as the sending or posting of nude or semi-nude images, videos or live streams online by young people under the age of 18. Nudes and semi-nudes can be shared online via social media, gaming platforms, chat apps, forums, or involve sharing between devices using offline services. Alternative terms used by children and young people may include ‘dick pics’ or ‘pics’. The motivations for taking and sharing nude and semi-nudes are not always sexually or criminally motivated.

This advice does not apply to adults sharing nudes or semi-nudes of under 18-year olds. This is a form of child sexual abuse and must be referred to the police as a matter of urgency.

Source: GOV.UK

Why Educate Young Children About Sharing Nudes and Semi-Nudes?

Preventing Harm and Promoting Safety

Educating young children about the sharing of nudes and semi-nudes is essential to prevent harm and promote online safety from an early age. By providing them with the foundational skills, knowledge, and confidence to recognise risks, we empower them to navigate the digital world safely. Discussing these issues helps create an environment where children feel comfortable seeking help and support from trusted adults.

The importance of teaching children about safeguarding, including online safety, is emphasised in various educational guidelines. Early education settings play a vital role in introducing these concepts to children, laying the groundwork for more detailed discussions as they grow older.

Building Healthy Online Relationships

Through early education, children can learn about the basics of online behaviour and the importance of positive, respectful interactions. Teaching them about consent and privacy helps them understand their rights and the importance of treating others with respect. Early discussions on these topics can prevent future issues related to the sharing of inappropriate images.


When and Where to Teach About Sharing Nudes and Semi-Nudes

Integrating Into the Curriculum

In early years settings, education about the sharing of nudes and semi-nudes should be part of a broader approach to online safety and healthy relationships. These lessons can be integrated into various parts of the curriculum, such as digital literacy and personal, social, and emotional development (PSED).

For very young children, the focus should be on understanding privacy, respecting personal boundaries, and recognising trusted adults they can turn to for help. Basic principles of consensual image sharing can be introduced without specifically discussing nudes and semi-nudes.

Age-Appropriate Learning

Educational content should be tailored to the age and developmental stage of the children. Use simple, clear language and relatable examples to explain concepts. Activities that reinforce positive online behaviours and respect for privacy can be very effective in helping young children grasp these important ideas.

How to Deliver Education Safely

Creating a Safe Learning Environment

When teaching young children about sensitive topics, it’s crucial to create a safe and supportive learning environment. Follow these best practices:
– Prioritise Well-being: Ensure the emotional safety of each child by fostering an inclusive and supportive atmosphere.
– Child-Centered Approach: Understand what being online means to young children and use this knowledge to frame your lessons.
– Promote Open Dialogue: Encourage children to ask questions and express their feelings. Let them know it’s okay to seek help from trusted adults.
– Empower Children: Help children build confidence and knowledge to identify risks and know where to get support.
– Avoid Scare Tactics: Use positive reinforcement rather than fear-based methods to teach about online safety.
– Challenge Victim-Blaming Attitudes: Address any victim-blaming attitudes constructively, helping children understand the importance of respecting others.

Using External Expertise

Inviting external experts to support your education efforts can be beneficial, but it’s important to ensure their contributions align with your educational goals:
– Purpose and Impact: Clearly define how an external visitor will enhance your education approach and what long-term impact they will have.
– Expertise and Approach: Ensure the visitor has the necessary skills and knowledge, and that they will use a supportive, non-alarmist approach.
– Safeguarding: Brief the visitor on your setting’s child protection policies and establish clear procedures for addressing any concerns that arise.

What To Do if an Incident Comes to Your Attention

Report it to your Designated Safeguarding Lead (DSL) or equivalent immediately. Your setting’s child protection policy should outline codes of practice to be followed.

  • Never view, copy, print, share, store or save the imagery yourself, or ask a child to share or download – this is illegal (see note below).
    • Note: In exceptional circumstances, it may be necessary for the DSL (or equivalent) only to view the image to safeguard the child or young person. That decision should be based on the professional judgement of the DSL (or equivalent).
  • If you have already viewed the imagery by accident (e.g. if a young person has showed it to you before you could ask them not to), report this to the DSL (or equivalent) and seek support.
  • Do not delete the imagery or ask the young person to delete it.
  • Do not ask the child/children or young person(s) who are involved in the incident to disclose information regarding the imagery. This is the responsibility of the DSL (or equivalent).
  • Do not share information about the incident with other members of staff, the young person(s) it involves or their, or other, parents and/or carers.
  • Do not say or do anything to blame or shame any young people involved.
  • Do explain to them that you need to report it and reassure them that they will receive support and help from the DSL (or equivalent).

Available Resources

Several organisations offer valuable resources to support early years educators in teaching about online safety and responsible behavior:
Barnardos: Services for children at risk of or experiencing abuse.
Childline: Confidential advice and tools like the “Report Remove” tool for reporting inappropriate images.
Childnet: Online safety resources and session plans tailored for young children.
LGfL: Training and resources on safeguarding and online safety for educational settings.
CEOP Education: Resources on online safety, relationships, and consent.
NSPCC: Training, guidance, and teaching resources on child safeguarding.
PSHE Association: Advice and resources for teaching personal, social, health, and economic education.
South West Grid for Learning: Educational resources on online behavior and safety.
UKCIS: The “Education for a Connected World” framework for developing online safety knowledge and skills.

By utilising these resources and following best practices, early years educators can effectively teach young children about the importance of online safety and responsible image sharing, helping them build a strong foundation for future digital interactions.