In the past week there have been a number of articles in the media about a young girl in Canada, Amanda Todd, just 15, who killed herself a month after describing her cyberbullying ordeal in a YouTube video posted last month. She was cyberbullied and cyberstalked after sexting a photo of herself when she was 12. Read her story as reported by the Herald Sun
So what is sexting?
Websafety NZ describes sexting as
Sexting is act of sending a naked or semi naked picture of one’s self using electronic means. It also involves sending flirtatious or sexual messages to others, using electronic means.
This first came about in 2005 when it became common for cameras to be in mobile phones.
Statistically, sexting is more common among females than males, and about 29% of females aged 14 – 18 are engaged in this activity.
Sexting or flirtatious messages are common in text messaging and teens often use acronyms to hide what they are saying from parents. However, it is when naked or semi naked photos are sent that is the real issue here. This is what we will be focusing on.
Why Are Teens Sexting?
Teens are learning about themselves, testing boundaries and exploring their sexuality. This is nothing new. What is new is the medium or technology they are using for that.
Girls are sending naked pics of themselves to boyfriends as a ‘treat’ or a ‘surprise’. Unfortunately, teens often do not consider the consequences of their actions. In the case of sexting it can go horribly wrong.
Sexting can also be a crime depending on the age of those involved. Ivanhoe Grammar’s iCybersafe site has more information on this. Further, with the advent of smartphones with good video capabilities teens are also sexcasting. Sexcasting is the creation, sending and receiving of sexually suggestive or explicit digital videos across the Internet.
What should parents do?
Common Sense Media provide this advice
- Don’t wait for an incident to happen to your child or your child’s friend before you talk about the consequences of sexting. Sure, talking about sex or dating with teens can be uncomfortable, but it’s better to have the talk before something happens.
- Remind your kids that once an image is sent, it can never be retrieved — and they will lose control of it. Ask teens how they would feel if their teachers, parents, or the entire school saw the picture, because that happens all the time.
- Talk about pressures to send revealing photos. Let teens know that you understand how they can be pushed or dared into sending something. Tell them that no matter how big the social pressure is, the potential social humiliation can be hundreds of times worse.
- Teach your children that the buck stops with them. If someone sends them a photo, they should delete it immediately. It’s better to be part of the solution than the problem. If they do send it on, they’re distributing pornography — and that’s against the law.
- Check out ThatsNotCool.com. It’s a fabulous site that gives kids the language and support to take texting and cell phone power back into their own hands. It’s also a great resource for parents who are uncomfortable dealing directly with this issue.
Also, the website understanding teenagers provides a rational approach to sexting. And the Victorian DEECD published a sexting fact sheet with advice which includes what to do if you find explicit images of your child.