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.