Our beauty blogger, Louisa Power of RaraRouge talks sexting:
So something a little different this week folks. A good blogger friend requested that I do a post on the volunteer work I do with teenagers through the Central Scotland Youth Project; specifically about the presentation I deliver on ‘sexting.’ The teenagers I work with are aged between 12-15 years old and the organisation I represent delivers a variety of programmes that include everything from domestic violence to internet safety.
The issue of teenage sexting has become a huge problem within our society. A recent survey by the NSPCC identified that 6 out of 10 teenagers had been asked to create explicit pictures or videos of themselves. The same survey revealed that 40% of the children had sent sexually explicated images/videos at some point in their life. All too often we are presented with tragic accounts of teenagers ending their young lives due a slew of harassment and abuse both on and offline stemming from a sexting incident. Most of us will be familiar with the stories of Amanda Todd and Audrie Pott. These two beautiful young girls suffered a deluge of abuse at the hands of bullies due to sexually explicate images going viral. Instead of continuing to walk through a crucible of teenage torment, these young women chose to end their lives. Closer to home, Scottish teenager Daniel Perry took his life last year after being blackmailed over naked images captured during a Skype session. The 17 year old plummeted to his death from the Forth Road bridge in August 2013 after being told ‘he would be better off dead’ if he did not comply with his blackmailers.
So what can we do to prevent any more young lives being ruined by this hyper sexualised phenomenon? I firmly believe education is vital. The presentation I deliver strives to provide each class with knowledge that encourages empowerment to combat compliance. Being a teenager can be brutal, it’s a downright emotional minefield. The vast majority of us spend all our time up until about the age of 24 trying to please everybody. Then BOOM! We hit 25 and our new mantra is ‘f**k this, I am here to do a job not make friends.’ Of course this is the benefit of hindsight. Luckily for my generation, our poor split second decisions were captured on blurry disposable camera films not in crystal clear HD. There was also little chance of these snaps going viral either as more than likely your mum was on the phone, jamming up the internet connection.
The key aspects of the presentation are to provide a clear definition of the potential legal implications of creating/sending sexts and who they can turn to if they need support. Many of them are shocked to learn that it is illegal to take a sexually indecent picture of themselves and that even unwittingly opening a sexually indecent image/video that has been sent to them via social media (e.g. snap chat) is breaking the law. I also explain that cropping an image to make it appear sexually explicit is also illegal. Raise your hand if you would like to be labelled as a distributor of child pornography? As a teenager it can be difficult to comprehend that when you click ‘send’ you have relinquished all control of the image and that is near impossible remove all traces of its existence if it goes viral. The internet is FOREVER. Through personal experience I can tell you that one of the first lectures I received when starting my nursing degree was regarding your digital footprint and online presence. There is a whole department of the NMC that deals with nurses and midwives whose online conduct has flown in the face of the profession.
Of course, mistakes happen. So what’s next? I offer a number of contacts that can support them if they find themselves in the thick of it. CEOP (Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre) is a fantastic organisation that tackles child sex abuse and offers support and information for parents (they can also be contacted anonymously). CEOP also created the short film I show during the presentation (which you can watch here if you are interested) which is very relatable albeit very Hollyoaks. It inspires debate amongst the class and encourages reflection. It is fascinating to sit back and just listen to what these young people have to say. I leave the class hoping that they take at least one thing away with them that might encourage them to think twice before they hit send.