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Children and young people are spending more and more time online; phones, laptops, tablets and gaming are all great for having fun and keeping in touch, but they also hold the potential for danger.

Thinkuknow is an education programme from a UK organisation which protects children both online and offline and has really useful information broken down into age-specific sections.

Know more about Child Exploitation and Online Protection

Young Scot has also published 7 top tips for staying safe when chatting online. Click here for more information.

In Scotland, it is legal for men and women to have sex once they are over 16 years of age. It is also legal for men to have sex with men if they are both over 16 years of age. There are no specific laws in Scotland about women having sex with women, so provided both women consent and are above the age of consent, it is legal. If a person has sex however with someone, under the age of 18, over whom they have a position of trust e.g. teacher, youth worker, carer or family member, then this is an offence and could be punished with a prison sentence. This includes any oral sex or sexual touching.

Consent is a term used in Scots Law to describe both or all people involved in sexual activity giving their free agreement to willingly participate in sex. Only people over the age of 16 are able to consent to sex. The laws on sex and sexual behaviour are designed to keep everyone safe - especially young people.

If you are under the age of 13 - In the eyes of the law you are not seen as old enough to consent to sex, so any sexual activity with someone under 13 is illegal and viewed as rape or sexual assault. You may be in a relationship and thinking about taking things further but before you do, you might want to talk to someone you trust about this and whether it is really what you want. If you want to talk to someone you don't know, Childline is a great place to start. You can access advice and information anonymously and no one needs to know you have contacted them. Also, attending a local young people clinic is a great place to get advice and information and is completely confidential, unless you tell staff something that puts you or someone else at risk.

If you are aged 13-15 - Any sexual activity with someone in this age group is against the law, but the law is there to protect young people who might be being abused or taken advantage of by someone older, it isn't designed to punish people of the same age who both agree to sex (consensual sex). You will not get into trouble by talking to a doctor, nurse or someone else in a sexual health clinic if you are having sex, thinking about having sex or accessing contraception before you are 16. They will only pass on information if they think you or someone else is in danger. It’s highly unlikely you will get into trouble with the law as long as there is not a large age difference between you and your partner and you both agree (consent) to sex. The most important thing to remember is that sex should be something you want and feel comfortable with. Talk to your partner about how to feel and if you don’t feel you can talk to someone else you can trust. Also, make sure you have thought about contraception. Staff at local young people clinics will be able to advise you further and can also help you make your mind up about having sex or not.

Alcohol, illegal drugs and prescription drugs can all impact on our ability to make positive sexual health choices. Alcohol is the most commonly used drug. It is legal and freely available to people over 18. However, we need to be realistic and admit that many young people under the age of 18 also use alcohol.

Using alcohol makes people relaxed and lowers their inhibitions. Some people feel more confident, others feel a loss of control. People tend to behave differently under the influence of alcohol and can do things that they would not do when sober. People might be more likely to get involved in sexual activity and at times like this, it’s easy to forget about practising safer sex, or just not bother with it at all. Remember that any unprotected sex can carry a risk of pregnancy and/or infections so it’s a good idea to have condoms with you all the time because this means they are available when you might need them. Try to stay aware of your sexual health even when you’re drunk.

Drugs, whether prescription or illegal, all have the potential to change the way you feel and act too, this also goes for how you feel and act sexually!

Injecting drugs of any kind with shared needles, syringes and other equipment carries a high risk of contracting a number of serious infections/viruses including HIV and Hepatitis C. What some people don’t realise is that the risk is not just limited to injecting equipment, but can also be passed through the paraphernalia that is used to take drugs. Infection can be passed through bank notes or straws that are used to sniff drugs, but also through water, cups and spoons. To keep yourself safe, never share equipment used to take drugs.

Pornography, or porn, is defined as sexually explicit material that was created for the purpose to arouse i.e. a sexy image, video, audio or words that were made to turn people on.

Most people access pornography as videos online. It’s everywhere, it’s free, and usually, there is nothing stopping anyone from watching it. The law says you have to be 18 to watch pornography, but in reality, a huge percentage of porn users are under the age of 18. It is easily accessible and sometimes unavoidable.

People have different views about the acceptability of pornography in society, especially in relation to the way women are portrayed and the often violent and abusive sex which takes place. Pornography is used by some people as an aid to arousal, however, if watched too much can become relied on for stimulation. This can lead to users becoming desensitized to the images that they find that they need more extreme images to achieve the same level of arousal.

The majority of people watch pornography for sexual pleasure. Usually, people watch pornography when they are masturbating (i.e. touching their genitals), which is a completely normal thing to do. Some people might also like to watch pornography with a sexual partner. It is important to remember however that pornography is usually made by actors and actresses who are being paid to pretend to enjoy whatever type of sex they are having.

It is also important to remember that in real life, very few people look like porn actors or actresses or act the way they do. Pornography is not real life and can lead to unrealistic expectations about sex, put pressure on partners and undermine relationships. For example, the average penis length when erect (or hard) is around 13 centimetres or 5 inches long, but an average porn actor’s penis is much bigger. Also, males usually orgasm and ejaculate much sooner than is shown in pornography, not all women will scream and shout like they often do on screen and condoms are very rarely used. The sex in porn isn’t always consensual either, which is against the law in the real world.

Sex in real life can be much better than pornography, because more often than not you know the person you are having sex with, and you can like, love or trust the person you are experimenting with.

Sometimes known as nudes, sexting is when someone takes a sexual image of themselves (either naked, partially naked, or in underwear) and sends it to a friend, partner or stranger using some form of technology such as their phone. Sexting can also be sexual texts or videos. You have to be 18 to send a sext. The law states that a picture of anyone under the age of 18 that is “explicit” is illegal as it is an indecent image of a child. If you send a sext of someone else that is under 18, that is also a crime.

People sext for lots of different reasons, including:

- They feel turned on/aroused and want to send it to a sexual partner or someone they fancy
- They have been asked to send one by someone else
- As a confidence booster, or because you want someone’s approval
Sometimes people are blackmailed or pressured to send a sext when they don’t want to. Some people also feel peer pressure to send sexts because they think everyone else is doing it. Your body is something you can control. If you ever feel pressured to send a sext, speak to someone you trust or get more information clicking here.

The Zipit app helps you to respond to unwanted chat with the power of GIFs. If someone's trying to get you to send them naked images of yourself, use the fully updated Zipit app to keep the situation under control.

Being bullied, in whatever way, can make you feel terrible. It can leave you feeling scared, upset, embarrassed or even angry. Online bullying can intensify these feelings because it feels like you can’t get away from it. If bullying is affecting you in this way, you really need to talk to someone about it. A great place to start is by calling Childline on 0800 1111.


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