Sexting isn't just harmless fun

Last year, NSPCC reports found that the rate at which teenagers are being pressured to text and email sexually explicit pictures of themselves has accelerated in the last few years. These demands were also found to have come from peers rather than from adults or strangers.

A survey carried out by the US organisation, The National Campaign, found that:
• 20% of teenagers have sent nude or semi-nude pictures/videos of themselves.
• 39% of teenagers have sent sexually suggestive messages.
Teenagers send the majority of these sexts to boyfriends, girlfriends or other people they knew. However, 15% of teenagers who have sent nude/semi-nude images of themselves say they have done so to someone they only knew online.

Prior research has shown that many teenagers have sent sexual texts, emails, images and videos. However many have not learnt what the risks are, and what the law says about sexting.

When BBC Reporters asked Tarporley High School Students for their views on sexting, 15-year-old Lizzie said: ‘I don't think the dangers of sexting are clear enough to young people. I think lots of young people think it's just for fun and there's a really dangerous side to it.’

Many teenagers and adults may think sexting can be exciting and fun, but there are many possible consequences, such as sending the sexual messages/images to the wrong person, the person you sent them to may share them, or the images/messages may accidentally be discovered by others if phones were lost. Another key issue regarding teens and children sending sexts is that youngsters can be vulnerable to be pornography charges because, when the sender and/or receiver is underage it is considered child pornography, making it illegal.

Sexting cases are often in the news, including the recent case of three school students who recorded mobile phone videos of drunken sex acts with fellow teens; authorities said they then shared them among themselves. These teenagers face up to 20 years in prison with the charge of child pornography.

It’s vital that children and teenagers are taught about the dangers and consequences surrounding sexting in school and at home. They may see it as fun, but if any of their images/messages are found not only is it likely they will be embarrassed, but they could also face serious charges.

If you would like to share your teaching tips on tackling this with your students, please add your comments below.

Written by Safeguarding Essentials on July 05, 2013 13:57

Busting the digital native myth

We are hearing more and more about the ‘digital native’ generation – young people who have grown up with a world of information and technology at their fingertips. But does this culture of being in natural surroundings breed the expectation that this generation are also safe in the environment.

Let’s take a few steps back…

It’s fair to say, my Dad knows a thing or two about computers. He had the opportunity in the 1970’s of operating a computer, which (without exaggeration) filled an office the size of your average classroom. Moving into the early 80’s and we had the raft of personal computers that came onto the market (for the nostalgic, these included the ZX81 through to the Amstrad CPC – we really were cutting edge in our house!). So when the world wide web arrived, we had that too.

Having seen the developments over the years, this generation has also understood the need to proceed with caution. Things didn’t always go right. So as each new technology came onto the market, so did the need to understand the risks and perhaps steer clear. So my Dad, despite being familiar with all the technologies, doesn’t have any social media accounts and is planning on keeping it that way.

Moving onto the next generation (that’s me) and things are a little different. I was lucky enough to have a mobile phone when I was 19, it was a Motorola – the one that looked like a brick (and weighed about the same). You could make calls on it and that was it. I remember life before the internet and actually having to go to the library if I wanted to research something. Now for me, online activity is something that I will happily engage with, but I know to have different passwords, understand that emails asking for my bank details are most likely phishing and I know exactly who all my Facebook friends are.

So what about these digital natives. I recently asked some young relatives how they could access the internet. They spent the next few minutes reeling off a list of phone, TV, Xbox, laptop and so on. So they do understand that they have a vast amount of access to the internet, but now, going back to my Dad, he tells me that he has had to re-install his computer twice because something has been downloaded or accessed by one of the grandchildren that had put a virus on his machine. One of the kids also has a Facebook account, but doesn’t know personally all the people on it (just in case, I got his parents to check out his account), and another is regularly inviting comments about her and her friends on her profile page.

These are the things that indicate that this digital native generation, while completely comfortable in the online world, are not aware of the risks that they are taking, not to mention the digital footprint they are leaving behind. Is this familiarity with the social media world actually putting them more at risk than the cautious generations before them? The technological times are moving so fast, that simply keeping up is hard enough without having to keep up with the dangers too.

Perhaps it’s not a generation of digital natives, but rather one of the digitally naïve.

Written by Safeguarding Essentials on June 24, 2013 15:40

The E-Safety Timebomb

On a day when the online dangers faced by young people are again at the forefront of the news, campaigners have been urging for detailed lessons on internet safety to be taught regularly in schools. This is because there have been increasing fears that children with access to the internet are being exposed to inappropriate sexual content.

3,745 counseling sessions were carried out by ChildLine last year; 250 of the calls were reports that children were being 'groomed' online. 641 calls were received about exposure to online pornography, with some callers as young as 11 years-old.

Claire Lilley, safer technology lead at the NSPCC said: ‘We are facing an e-safety timebomb.’

‘The internet and mobile phones are now part of young people's everyday lives. They are the first generation who have never known a world without them.’

The NSPCC says that schools need to step in as the issue is something that parents struggle to keep up with. They are also urging all internet service providers to provide easy systems to allow parents to install online blocks and filters in their homes (although here at E-safety Support, we also advocate self moderation through their own understanding rather than creating barriers).

Phil Bradley, of the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals, said: ‘When it comes to the internet... children need to learn how to use it safely and how to differentiate the good from the bad.’

And with so much bad at their fingertips, it’s never been more important to make sure pupils really understand the risks they are taking when they set up an online profile, or join a social media site. For many of these ‘digital natives’, the internet is as natural a part of life as sliced bread was to their parents! So it’s quite understandable that there is a need for knowledge across the generations. Naturally, school is the institution where this can begin, but everyone must take a role to keep the children protected, including the children themselves.

Written by Safeguarding Essentials on June 19, 2013 08:04


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