for professionals for young people VLE staff login

Sexting – Why is it so Popular With Teenagers?

Reuters Health most recent study suggests: ‘At least one in four teens are receiving sexually explicit texts and emails, and at least one in seven are sending sexts.’

At safe, West Sussex, we regularly receive referrals to our project for teenagers who have sent nude, or partially nude, images to someone they know, and sometimes even someone they have never met, via the internet. This is an increasing problem in secondary schools, but why is it that some teenagers feel that is ‘the norm’ to send these types of images?

Sexting – what is it?

Sexting is when someone shares sexual, naked or semi-naked images or videos of themselves or others, or sends sexually explicit messages.   These can be sent using mobiles, tablets, smart phones, laptops or any device that allows you to share media and messages.

Sexting may also be called:

  • trading nudes
  • dirties
  • pic for pic.

(Definition taken from NSPCC website)

Sexting – Why do it?

Sexting can be a healthy way for young people to explore sexuality and intimacy when it’s consensual.  After speaking to some of the teenagers safe are currently working with, some of the reasons they give for why teenagers do this are:

‘It’s a new thing, they want to try it out.’

‘It’s shown in films as being normal (e.g. romantic and comedy fims).’

‘It’s on Instagram and Snapchat, usually with year 9 or 10 pupils, so people think it’s ok to do it too.’

‘You might do it privately between your boyfriend or girlfriend.’

‘I think 95% of adults in their 20s and 30s do it, so why not?’

Sexting – What are the dangers?

The most obvious danger is that when these images are sent to someone you believe you can trust, they could send these on to anyone anywhere in the world.  Just because you are in a relationship with someone, it does not necessarily mean you are with them forever.  When relationships end, sometimes there are bad feelings and bitterness because of the break up, and these photos could be sent onto other friends, contacts online or schoolmates to try to embarrass the sender.  Don’t forget that the sender has no control over who else can see their image,  once it has been sent it to someone else, they can do whatever they like with that image.

These photos could also be used to blackmail the sender into sending other images.  When images are stored or shared online they become public. Some people may think that images and videos only last a few seconds on social media and then they’re deleted, but they can still be saved or copied by others. This means that photos or videos which a young person may have shared privately could still be end up being shared between adults they don’t know.

Young people may think ‘sexting’ is harmless, but it can leave them vulnerable to:

  • Blackmail  An offender may threaten to share the pictures with the child’s family and friends unless the child sends money or more images.
  • Bullying  If images are shared with their peers or in school, the child may be bullied.
  • Unwanted attention  Images posted online can attract the attention of sex offenders, who know how to search for, collect and modify images.
  • Emotional distress  Children can feel embarrassed and humiliated. If they’re very distressed this could lead to suicide or self-harm.

Sexting – The law

What the law says:

Sexting can be seen as harmless, but creating or sharing explicit images of a child is illegal, even if the person doing it is a child. A young person is breaking the law if they:

  • take an explicit photo or video of themselves or a friend
  • share an explicit image or video of a child, even if it’s shared between children of the same age
  • possess, download or store an explicit image or video of a child, even if the child gave their permission for it to be created.

However, as of January 2016 in England and Wales, if a young person is found creating or sharing images, the police can choose to record that a crime has been committed but that taking formal action isn’t in the public interest.

Crimes recorded this way are unlikely to appear on future records or checks, unless the young person has been involved in other similar activities which may indicate that they’re a risk.

If you are concerned about the images being shared by a young person you are working with, then safe, West Sussex can help.  We work with young people either on a one to one basis, or even in small groups to discuss online safety, the dangers of sexting and healthy relationships.  If you would like to make a referral, please contact either kayjones@asphaeia.co.uk or rubygarnham@asphaleia.co.uk or call asphaleia’s head office on 01903 522966 and ask to speak to Kay or Ruby.

     

Comments are closed.