IS SEXTING A ‘CRIME’?

As you probably know, sexting is sending someone sexually explicit photographs or messages via technology – usually a smart phone.

 

A hot topic that has been in the news recently is the story of a 14 year old boy sending a fellow female classmate a sext. The consequence? He could have his name stored on a police database for up to 10 years. Here’s the Telegraphs report on this story.

The 14 year old boy sent the explicit image through the popular social network Snapchat. Even though this app deletes picture messages within 10 seconds the girls managed to save the image (easily done with a ‘screenshot’) on her phone and sent it to other pupils at the school. The boy was understandably humilitated.

The schools reaction was to inform a police officer and it has now been officially recorded as a crime. The boys name was then added to a police database which could then be disclosed to employers affecting his future job prospects.

Sadly, sexting happens alot in our culture and we want to educate adults and teenagers about the affects it can have. The decision to sext is often made in a moment of excitement by the part of the brain that deals with emotions. We want to help young people engage their logic and think about the possible impact.

Here’s a few bits of information and advice that we want all to know. . . 

Snapchat
It’s such a fun idea, isn’t it? The idea that we can send a picture or message that only lasts for a few seconds. It’s like a ‘you had to be there’ moment. . .possible with people who aren’t actually there. We see an event with our eyes, then the moment passes and all we’ve got is our memories; Snapchat creates this possibility for moments we’re not present for. We love this concept!

If you say an unkind word to someone, it leaves a trace in their memory and perhaps a feeling of hurt. Face to face you can see it. Somehow the lack of physical proximity can mean that we don’t think about the consequences of our actions over digital technology. We don’t know many young people who would expose themselves to a room full of their peers. But we do meet plenty of young people who have taken a picture like that, sent it on, and it’s been seen by a room-load of people. The consequences are often similar in both instances.

Ctrl Alt Del 
Once an image is sent into the digital world it is there forever. Even if you delete it from your device, an expert can easily retrieve it, and even share it. Is an image you’re sending an image you’d be happy for thousands of others to see?

Law and Order
Sending a naked image of yourself if you’re below 18 years is illegal. It counts as an offence of distributing an indecent image of a child. It could lead to receiving a police caution, and in some cases, could lead to your name being on the sex offenders register.

But I can leagally have sex at 16, right? 
The age of sexual consent is 16, yet the age for distributing indecent images in 18. So, a 17 year old can legally have sex but cannot legally send a naked image. Does this raise any questions in your mind? Does the law work? We’d love your thoughts here.

#ENDREVENGEPORN
Revenge porn is the publication of explicit material which portrays someone who ahs  not consented for the image/ video to be shared and also has a purpose of causing embarrassment or distress. (Gov, Factsheet).

If someone sends a sext, it could be viewed in the eyes of the law as revenge porn which can lead to a variety of  criminal consequences. Ouch.

“I feel humiliated.” 
These very words were spoken by the 14 year old boy in the story above and by too many other teens. The emotional and psychological implications of sexting can be huge. Dealing with feelings such as embarrassment, humiliation and the implications of bullying can all be part of sending one single sex. At Romance Academy, we want to see young people make wise choices about messages they send and be able to assess risk in the short and long term.

We also understand why young poeple send sexts. They get excited, they’re exploring their sexuality, and the feelings of being attracted and having others be attracted to them. The question we have to help them answer is, what are appropriate ways of expressing those feelings and desires? It’s probably not sexting.

So it’s time to get educated and here’s a few ways to go about it. . . 

– Check out the governments campaign on Be Aware B4 You Share and get a hold of the facts of Revenge Porn.

– Keep up to date with any sexting stories that are happening globally, nationally and in your local area. Check out the newspapers and news websites for updates. Ask your young people for their thoughts and ideas about avoiding these kinds of situations.

– Ask good questions of young people! Ask them about sexting. Assume you know nothing and ask them to explain what they think sexting is. What do their friends think about it? What can the affects of it be? Has it been an issue in their school?

We conclude this article with one question which we hope sparks a healthy debate: Is there such a thing as a safe sext? Go. . .

 

This article featured on Romance Academy’s blog in September 2015.

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