You are here

Time to get real about sexting?

The Department of Health's mental health tsar has called on a radical rethinking of the way we talk to young people on the subject of sending nude or sexually explicit images of themselves to others.

Commonly known as sexting, it's a criminal offence to take, possess or share 'indecent'[1] images of anyone under 18 in the the UK, even if you're the person in the picture. Despite this, many young people do so willingly, often to people they are in a relationship with, or can feel pressured into doing so by their peers.

Writing in the Times Educational Supplement, Natasha Devon said, ‘The problem is, as has become depressingly typical, teachers have been expected to resolve a technology-created dilemma that parents and society more generally find horrifying and fascinating in equal measure, without any sort of guidance.’

She argues that the current approach isn't effective. Warning young people that an explicit image shared online may affect their job prospects in the future, or end in a criminal conviction, for example, isn't likely to make much difference.

‘Quoting worst-case scenarios is... likely to prompt a “probably won’t happen to me and therefore not relevant” response. Plus, in their minds, “everyone’s doing it” and, unless the powers that be want the economy to collapse in a decade’s time, they can’t simply refuse to give everyone who’s ever sexted a job. It’s not economically viable. A different tack is needed.’

Instead, she says that young people should be encouraged to take time to step back and think before sending an explicit selfie and ask themselves questions such as 'why am I being asked to do this?' and 'what will happen if I say no?.'

Read the full article here.


[1] According to CEOP, the online child exploitation wing of the National Crime Agency, ‘No one has defined ‘indecent’ but basically if it’s naked, a topless girl, contains genitals or sex acts, including masturbation, then it will be indecent.’