Sexting

Young people tend not to use the term ‘sexting’, it’s more used by academics or journalists. It means sending sexual messages or photos of themselves electronically. The definition has changed as technology has moved from mobile phones without cameras which only allowed text messages or phone calls to widespread use of smartphones that can host a variety of social media apps on which to post messages, photos and even video.

A report from September 2015 commissioned by eNASCO, the European NGO Alliance for Child Safety Online called ‘Sexual Rights and Sexual Risks among Youth Online” includes a review of the latest research on sexting. In summary it shows the following:

Strong evidence

1. Girls face much greater pressure to send ‘sexts’ and much harsher judgements when those images are shared beyond the intended recipient.

Moderate evidence

2. Some studies report extremely small percentages of young people sharing sexual messages, while others report higher percentages, and many studies have used differing definitions; overall it is unclear how many youth are sharing sexual images.
3. Older youth and those with risk-taking or sensation-seeking behaviours are more likely to ‘sext’, but more information on demographics and other characteristics of youth who ‘sext’ are needed.

Need to know more

4. There is a tension in the literature between youth rights to sexual expression and privacy and child protection. It is unclear how young people are thinking about consent, what they are being taught, and their understandings of consent in relation to ‘sexting’ and sharing images

This is a general guide to the law and does not constitute legal advice.

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