Staying safe on social media
Technology has transformed culture and values across the globe. In the span of a few decades, smartphones, the internet and social media have become an integral part of our daily habits. Whilst there are many benefits from these technologies, the rise of cyberbullying is well known and cyberbullying statistics worldwide can be alarming.
- About 38% of cyberbullying victims are willing to admit it to their parents.
- Global cyberbullying awareness is at 75%.
- Over 80% of children own a mobile phone and have multiple social network accounts.
Sexting, Nudes and Nudies…
One of the most discussed modern phenomena is sexting.
In a 2017 eSafety survey of young people aged 14 to 17
- 5% said they had sent an intimate image, and 19% of these said they did it because they trusted the person they sent it to.
- 15% reported being asked for an image, with 52% of requests coming from someone they did not know.
- 73% said they did not send an image after being asked (82% of 14 year olds compared to 66% of 17 year olds).
The term ‘sexting’ is not often used by young people or in popular culture where this practice is more likely to be referred to by other terms such as ‘sending nudes’. It is important to talk with our young people about the possible consequences of sending or sharing intimate or sexually explicit messages, images, photos or videos.
The Office of the eSafety Commissioner (Australia), Netsafe (New Zealand) and UK Safer Internet Centre with the University of Plymouth (UK) collaborated on research to present a report on young people’s experience of sending and sharing nude and nearly nude images. This report was titled “Young People and Sexting – Attitudes and Behaviours”
The purpose of this research was to better understand the:
- prevalence of sending and sharing of both solicited and unsolicited nude or nearly nude images or videos, and
- young people’s influences and motivations for this behaviour.
In this research, when presented with a number of options the most popular responses about why nudes are sent were:
- because they wanted a relationship (67%)
- to be told they are attractive (68%)
- because they were pressured into doing it (66%).
Young people may be exposed to persistent demands for images, feeling peer pressure to engage in these practices. However, many could not see anything wrong with being subjected to this sort of pressure.
Nearly 50% of teen girls cite pressure from boys as a reason to send explicit images or message, while only 18% of teen boys say they have been pressuring girls. This is potentially indicative of power imbalance, self-esteem issues or boys not realising that they are pressuring girls.
Peer pressure is not always about coercion though. When young people see their peers engaging in image sharing within relationships, their interpretation is that sexting is a successful technique to achieve a relationship. Being in a relationship often signifies a heightened level of popularity and attractiveness, two things that carry great currency in the lives of our teenagers.
‘Victim blaming’ is a common phenomenon whereby the person who generated an image receives abuse from the wider community, despite the recipient of the image being the one responsible for it being spread further. In the survey data almost 75% of respondents said the person responsible for the image is the person who took it.
Why Is Sexting a Problem?
In a technology world where anything can be copied, sent, posted, and seen by huge audiences, there’s no such thing as being able to control information. The intention doesn’t matter. In the hands of teens, when revealing photos are made public, the sexter almost always ends up feeling humiliated. Bullying and harassment are a common fallout when photos and messages get shared beyond the intended recipient, with resulting emotional and social consequences. Sexting can result in charges of distributing or possessing child pornography.
What can Parents do?
Talk early and talk often. Start the conversation – before you have an incident. You can also use news stories or plotlines in television shows or movies as a conversation starter. The recent SBS four-part miniseries, The Hunting, tells the story of two high school teachers who discover that students are sharing sexually explicit photos of their underage friends and peers online.
It is key that a non-judgmental and informational approach is adopted. Our young people know that sexting is bad and that they should not do it, and can repeat verbatim the messages that are delivered to them. Keeping the dialogue open leaves room for them to talk with you rather than hiding things away. Ensure they know that you are approaching the conversation from a position of care and support. Also, be aware that they may have a different name for sexting, so you’ll need to be clear about the topic you are discussing.
Remind your adolescents that once an image is sent, it can never be retrieved – and they will lose control of it. Talk about the pressures to send revealing photos. Teach your young person that the buck stops with them. When they make a choice, they must accept the ultimate responsibility for their decisions.
Make sure you listen. Your young person may not agree with your opinions about appropriateness of certain behaviours and she may have some compelling reasons why. Encourage her to consider the possible consequences and how she wants to be seen by others.
There are ways you can help if things go wrong. If your child tells you that she (or a friend) has been sexting, address the issue calmly. Ask about the circumstances and what led to sending or receiving the photo or message. Problem-solve together on what should be done now and how to prevent a recurrence.
Let them know that they can always approach you and that you will support them. The eSafety Commissioner website has some advice on having hard-to-have conversations with your child.
You may also like to read the Common Sense Education’s Sexting Handbook. This resource gives families the language and support to take texting and smart phone power back into their own hands. It’s also a great resource for parents who are uncomfortable dealing directly with this issue.
Sexting and the law
There are commonwealth and state and territory laws against asking for, accessing, possessing, creating or sharing sexualised images of children and young people under 18. This means a young person who asks for, accesses, possesses, creates or shares sexualised images of someone under 18 may be at risk of criminal charges and thus a criminal record and possible registration as a sex offender.
Find out more about image-based abuse
Image-based abuse is when someone shares or threatens to share your nudes online without your consent. Find out more about image-based abuse and how to take action if your nudes have been shared or if someone is threatening to share them.
If you have any concerns about your daughter, or would like further information, please so not hesitate to contact us.
Mrs Beth Nairn
Acting Dean of Pastoral Care
Sexting among teens is, unfortunately, very common. Many parents are shocked to hear how casually teens discuss how prevalent it is. Why do teens do it? To show off, to entice someone, to show interest in someone, to prove commitment, or even as a joke. Click here to here for this week’s edition of SchoolTV and take the quiz to see how much you know about Sexting.
Conversations Period this week
|Year 11||In conversation with Heads of House|
|Year 10||With Mrs Parker discussing Immersions in 2020|
|Year 9||In conversation with Tutors|
|Year 8||Digital Tools for Organisation|
|Wednesday 27 November||Swimming Carnival|
|Monday 2 December||SRC Christmas Cup|
|Wednesday 4 December||Light Entertainment Assembly|
|Thursday 5 December||Awards Ceremony|