With the development of technology in the past decade being so rapid many more avenues for communicating with people have opened and many new practices have been created by young people. One such creation is sexting. The term sexting has been created via media and is a mix of sex and texting. There are many definitions of sexting that are dependent mainly on age and opinion. The word ‘sext’ is defined as follows;
gerund or present participle: sexting
- send (someone) sexually explicit photographs or messages via mobile phone.
“older teens are more likely to engage in sexting than their younger counterparts”
A 2015 study conducted by the Australian Institute of Criminology on sexting among young people highlighted some misconceptions older generations have in regard to sexting. The study found that there was little evidence peer pressure to engage in sexting and that it was a mutually consensual and enjoyed activity. The study also revealed that sexting occurs mainly between couples in relationships. This study highlighted the opinion of older generations on the matter of sexting amongst young people and some of the misconceptions they believe. Older generations think that sexting is a one-sided activity that is pressured upon people by their peers, done carelessly between older teenagers who barely know each other but the reality is sexting rarely happens under these circumstances. It is more likely to occur between teenagers who are in trusting relationships with the explicit images being sent as a gift or is response to receiving one.
Sexting definitely has negative connotations surrounding it, these come mainly from the way it is shown in media. All media about sexting whether its videos, news articles even the study I used for this post all display sexting as a bad thing that is forced onto people and ruins lives. Looking through several types of media all I found was stories of how lives had been ruined by sexting and the quantity of these stories makes it seem like the only outcome of this activity is negative. Examples of the titles found are the dangers of sexting, should teens be left to their own devices, Generation sext: eradicating the scourge and digital corruption. All of these are the names of news articles alone. They are written by adults for adults even though the group the concern is directed towards is teenagers. This media coverage of the issue creates a culture of fear for parents and a mentality of “I’m going to do this because I was told not to” for teenagers.
The laws that surround sexting are constantly changing as technology advances and opinions change. Child pornography and sexual assault are just two of the reasons for laws being changed. Children as young as 13 are being charged with the production and distribution of child pornography in relation to sexts they are sending; the real issue however is when these images are being received and redistributed by sexual predators and pedophiles.
An incident like this occurred just last year in Australia where a website that uploaded and shared images of girls from 71 school across Australia surfaced. The website referred to the collection of images as ‘hunting’ and when the image was received it was called a ‘win’. Some of the victims of the scandal had bounties for their images. Over 2000 images were traded on the sight.
Sexting is not a bad activity, but internet safety needs to be taught in a way that teenagers will listen too and follow. Scaring teens out of sexting is not the answer, neither is going straight to parents and careers with horror stories that are the worst of the worst experiences. By law sexting is illegal but that is not going to stop teens engaging in it, prevention is considered better than a cure but the likelihood of preventing teenagers from sexting is very low. A solution to issues that people have with sexting should be a talk conducted by teenagers for teenagers and not scare tactics.