What Are the Risks of Young People Sexting?

What Are the Risks of Young People Sexting?

Tash Bright No Comment

When talking about the risks of sexting, it is often assumed that young people do not know the consequences of sharing sexual imagery. Findings from SPIRTO have shown that many young people do know the risks and try to manage these risks by leaving their face out of pictures or using apps like Snapchat.

This week, our Let’s Talk About Sexting Campaign looks into the consequences of sexting and how gender often plays a role in how young people are treated once it has been discovered they have sent sexual imagery.

There are many reasons why young people might sext, which we looked in to last week. Young people may start sending ‘nude pics’ as a way of boosting their self-esteem. They could be pressured into sending pictures or young people may sext as a way of exploring their sexuality as part of their natural curiosity about sex.

It is important to remember that even though looking into the consequences of sexting may be shocking, it is important not to jump to conclusions and judge young people harshly if it has been discovered they have sent sexual images. It is often detrimental to punish young people for sexting, as it acts to deter young people from sharing issues they may be facing and seeking help. The aim of looking into the consequences of sexting is to raise awareness of the risks and legalities that could occur, with the main aim being protecting young people from child abuse

1. Loss of Control

In this digital age we live in, it is easy to quickly share our experiences and detail our lives through pictures via social media. Unfortunately, once a picture has been sent you cannot be sure where it may end up. This is especially important to consider before sending sexual imagery, because once an image has been shared, things can quickly spiral out of control and the young person may no longer know who their picture might have been forwarded to. Digital footprints are notoriously hard to erase.

Young people that have had negative experiences with sexting often talk about the feeling of losing control and things quickly escalating to the point where they felt overwhelmed. This sense of despair was detrimental to their health and well-being and in some cases led to feelings of anxiety, depression, self-harm and in the worst cases – suicide.

It is important that young people contemplate how they might feel if the picture they are considering sending was seen by their classmates, shared on Facebook or seen by their parents.

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2.Sexting and Sexism

Research conducted NSPCC found that culturally pervasive sexist beliefs were rampant in secondary schools and acted as the backdrop in which sexting took place. The discovery that sexism was normalised for contexts for all relationships on and off line meant that girls consistently received harsher consequences (bullying, scrutiny, violence, blackmail) for sending pictures than boys, who were often praised and got ‘ratings’ from their peers for receiving nude pics from girls. The potential of new technology has added another way in which young people can achieve status with their peers. The sharing of images has been linked to young people, usually young men, vying for power within their peer group and using others, usually young women’s images as the means to do that.

As recent as this month, MPs across the country have begun recognising the need for increased awareness and education in schools addressing sexism that views women as objects of male desire and labels girls/women negatively whilst praising boys for the same behaviour. The same research showed that even when girls refused to participate in the sending of photos, this did not mean they were safe from the implications of this practice and routine forms of sexism. Boys who do not engage in getting ‘ratings’ from their peers for receiving pictures from girls were at risk of being labelled gay or anti-sex, while girls are bullied for being virgins if they don’t engage in sexting and ‘slut shamed’ when they do.

MP, Maria Miller stated this month; ‘It is difficult to explain why any school would allow girls to be subjected to sexual harassment and violent behaviour that has been outlawed in the adult workplace…Failing to reinforce what is acceptable behaviour could well be fuelling the ‘Lad Culture’ that the Government has already identified as a problem in colleges and universities.’

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3. Vulnerable to Blackmail

There are offenders that seek out sexual images of children and young people and they can be highly manipulative. They can use fear and blackmail or make the young person feel guilty, worthless or that they haven’t  got a choice. Whether young people send images of themselves to strangers or people they know, there is no guarantee where the pictures will end up. Once an offender has a picture of a young person, they may try to persuade them to send sexual images by saying they will be hurt or upset if the young person refuses. They may then continue to blackmail the young person into sending even more explicit pictures by threatening to post their images online or show them to people the young person knows (school/family) if they don’t send them more.

“What we’re seeing is abusers taking advantage and getting images out of young people and then blackmailing them for more by saying, ‘If you don’t do more for me, I’ll send these to your family and friends,'” Ceop’s head of education, Jonathan Baggaley, said.

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4. It is Illegal

It is illegal to produce, store or share sexual imagery of anyone under the age of 18, even if you are the person in the picture. It is important to keep in mind that though the age of sexual consent is 16, sending sexual imagery of anyone under 18 is illegal. The law criminalising indecent images of children was created to protect young people from adults and sexual abuse. It was not intended to criminalise children. None the less, where police have been notified, the incident will be listed as a ‘crime’ and the young person involved will be a ‘suspect’. Outcome 21 was created specifically for such cases and helps to formalise the discretion available to police when handling crimes such as youth produced content.

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5. Pictures Could be Uploaded on to Porn Websites

Once something has been sent, it cannot be unsent. Pictures and text are easily shared, especially when people are in trusting relationships. It is important for young people to understand that relationships may end and the once trusted partner may use the same pictures to humiliate them. There are whole websites dedicated to this act known as revenge porn. Pictures of sexually graphic content of the individual may have immediate consequences, such as images being uploaded and shared on porn websites for all to see or even going viral and becoming public knowledge to people at their school. In comparison, pictures that have been sent may resurface years later and effect job opportunities in the future and relationships in later life, so think before you send.

 

Next week we will be looking into real life instances where sexting has taken place and what the outcomes were.

 

If you have been affected by any aspect of sexting you can get help from the organisations bellow:

Childline – 0800 11 11 or in an online chat athttp://www.childline.org.uk/Talk/Chat/Pages/OnlineChat.aspx

If parents and carers are concerned about their child, they can contact the NSPCC – 0808 800 5000, by emailing help@nspcc.org.uk, or by texting 88858.

They can also ring the Online Safety Helpline by ringing 0808 800 5002.

Revenge Porn Helpline – http://www.revengepornhelpline.org.uk/ or call on 0800 6000 459

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