Commissioner’s pride in Surrey Police campaign to tackle youth-produced sexual images

A new campaign is underway across Surrey to target and prevent the harmful behaviours of young people who ask peers for sexual images.

Running as adverts on Snapchat, TikTok, YouTube and Meta, ‘Ok To Ask?’ depicts three teenagers giving their response to being pressured, or a friend being pressured, into asking for a nude photograph or being asked for a nude photograph.

Although led by Surrey Police and the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner for Surrey, it was developed alongside the target audience of 13-17-year-olds with in-person and online focus groups, surveys and ‘writers’ rooms’ – making it a campaign by young people, for young people.

The campaign is already gaining traction, with nearly six million impressions across social media platforms, but more importantly, it’s sparking the much-needed conversations on the topic.

Comments include: “This is so refreshing to see”, “People need to see this”, “Most adverts shame girls who may have sent something – this is great as focuses on the person asking” and “We need more mates like Jacob!”.

Temporary Detective Inspector Ellen Mclachlan, who works in Surrey Police’s Online Child Abuse Unit, said: “We chose this subject as the focus of the campaign as it’s one of the most wide-spread, policing issues, affecting the 13-17-year-old age group with considerable risks and something we believe shouldn’t be considered as ‘just part of teenage life’.

“Often, people have a stereotyped view on the perpetrators of online child abuse and it may be a surprise to learn that nearly a third of all sexual images of children found on webpages are in fact youth-produced.

“Youth produced sexual imagery is defined as images or videos generated by children under the age of 18 that are of a sexual nature or are considered to be indecent.

“Within policing, sadly we are all too familiar with the consequences that can stem from this behaviour including sexual bullying and blackmail.

Campaign success

“Working alongside our local and national partner agencies a core aspect of our work is prevention and early intervention to safeguard young people from ever experiencing these types of offences.

“But, while safeguarding is our primary concern, it’s important to know that it’s a crime to take, make, show or possess indecent images of any person below the age of 18, even if the person doing it is a child.

“This means we have a duty to seriously investigate instances of suspected youth produced sexual imagery – ultimately it’s child abuse.”

Surrey’s Police and Crime Commissioner, Lisa Townsend, said: “The success of this ground-breaking campaign is a reflection of how important it is to listen to our young people and support them in navigating difficult issues.

‘Timely and crucial message’

“Youth produced sexual imagery is happening across society, and the Force’s message – that it’s not ok to ask for sexualised images, regardless of what a young person believes their peers are doing – is timely and crucial.

“I’m delighted that my brilliant Commissioning team were able to secure Home Office funding for this project, and that Surrey Police, working closely with young people from the county, have produced such an insightful campaign.

“By creating more opportunities for young people to speak openly with each other, as well as with their parents, carers and teachers, we hope to support healthier behaviours which stop youth produced sexual imagery being normalised.”

Parents and carers have a crucial role to play in helping young people to navigate the pressures to ask for and send images. There are a number of things you can do to help support them with this topic. Visit our webpage for more information and support.

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