The term ‘Sexting’ refers to the sending or receiving of text messages containing sexually explicit photos.
It can be seen as a bit of harmless fun, but did you know that sexting is illegal?
Sexting is, at the time of writing, illegal in Australia however the laws are currently (4th September 2014) under review by the Napthine Government.
Currently, there’s a technical law that if the images being sent or received are of people under 18 then those sending or receiving the images are actually in violation of Australian child pornography laws – even if the culprits are also under 18.
The Napthine Government is looking to adjust this due to an increasing number of young people owning criminal records and being placed on the sexual offenders register due to sexting and having this impact their employment opportunities.
You can be charged if:
- You take a nude or semi-nude picture of a person under 18, even if they agree to the picture being taken,
- You take photos or video of a person under 18 involved in sexual activity or posing in an indecent sexual manner (or even if it looks like they are).
- You put an photo or video on your phone and forward it to someone.
- Possessing, controlling, producing, supplying or obtaining a photo of a person under the age of eighteen (including taking/sending/ receiving sexual images of teens via mobile phone) is illegal and violates the laws 474.19 to 474.22, Using a carriage (telecommunications) service for child pornography material or child abuse material.
In today’s environment where anything can be copied, sent, posted, and seen by huge audiences, there’s no such thing as being able to control images. Even if a photo was taken and sent as a token of love, technology makes it possible for anyone to see the image. Once a image makes it into Cyberspace, you loss control over the image and it’s possible that it’s out there forever and this may impact on you later in life.
Advice to Stop or Prevent Sexting
If you are asked to send texts SAY NO!! You don’t know where the image will end up and once you hit send you lose control over it.
- If you have sent an image or text and you are worried about what might happen, there are some things that you can do to try and make sure that your texts don’t get passed on and/or you don’t get accused of sending inappropriate things:
- You may have sent it to your boyfriend or girlfriend; consider asking them to delete the message from their phone
- If you have sent an image or text that you feel is now out of your control, talk to a trusted adult or school counsellor to work out what you can do.
- If you feel you are being pressured to send them an image, remember you have the right to say ‘No’!!
If someone sends you an image:
- Do not forward the image to anyone
- If the text is from a friend, tell them you do not want any more texts like that from them
- If the texts keep coming, then block that sender. Block their number on your phone
- You might need to change your mobile number. If you do, make sure that only friends you trust get your new number
- Talk to your parents, another adult that you trust, school counsellor or Kids Helpline
Advice for Parents
Talk to your children about sexting, what it is and the consequences.
Remind them that once an image is sent they will lose control of it.
Warn them about sexual predators
Talk about possible pressures to send revealing photos and they shouldn’t feel pressured into anything. Empower your child to SAY NO.
Talk to your children about what is appropriate mobile phone behaviour
Where to Get Help
Talk to a trusted adult, parent, school counsellor, teacher or the Police.
There are some really helpful websites you can go to for information or to report if you are receiving messages that you feel uncomfortable about:
I was your normal 13 year old teenage girl, but one day everything changed for worse. What happened to me I will never forget and will be imprinted on me for the rest of my life.
There was this perfect boy in my life at the time, in the end he was one of the worst things that could have happened to me. I thought he was the one for me; we’d be together for a very long time. I was so happy when I was around him; he told me I was beautiful. All the right things a girl wants to hear, he told me and I believed him. After he had told me he loved me, one night he asked me if I would send a photo of my breasts. I took the photo that night, something I regret even now when I’m passed that chapter in my life.
I didn’t send the photo to him, the next day I asked my best friend if I should or not. She said the best thing a best friend could say to me that day, no. She told me I was better than that and that I shouldn’t have to send a photo for him to like me. Which is what I want you girls to know, even if a boy tells you that he loves you and that he won’t show anyone, still don’t do it. If he gets angry at you for saying no, in the end, he was really not worth your time. He should love you for who you are and not what your body looks like.
The day I asked my best friend if I should send it, I did a silly mistake and left the photo on my phone. I will never know why I didn’t just delete the photo right then and there, that is something I will never be able to tell you. That day, mistakes just kept on coming. I was ion class chatting with my friends and not worrying about anything but myself, when someone who i thought was my friend stole my phone out of where I placed it in my pencil case, and found the photo amongst other photos in my phone. They sent it to their phone without me realising and before I knew it, the whole school had a photo of my breasts on their phone.
Unlike all the other girls that sent a photo to a guy around the time that I did, mine wasn’t taken lightly. I was called names, people came up in my face and yelled at me, over five people tried to bash me. I didn’t tell anyone because I thought it would get better, but it kept getting worse. I didn’t know what to do or who to tell so I lived with being bullied for at least two months. I had no friends; everyone hated me for something I didn’t do. The feeling of being hated so much is hard to explain.
You were once the popular girl and you had a lot of friends and then one day everything changes. I became depressed and I hated my body from then on. I still have trouble trusting boys to this day. If I had the chance to go back and change everything I would. I never would have even considered taking the photo. Today I still have to live with the feeling that everyone knows what my body looks like, sometimes, even someone brings up what happened to me and I still feel disgusted with myself and ashamed of what I did.
I felt alone and not wanted at the time and the even worse thing is when you take a photo and what happened to me, happens to you, your parents find out. The way my mum looked at me, made me feel like I was disowned, she was ashamed to call me her daughter. My dad on the other hand, still to this day, we are and will never be as close as we used to be. This is nothing anyone would want to experience.
The best friend’s point of view:
The day I found out what my friend had done. It was the when everything changed; I had found out that my best friend had taken a photo of her breasts and it had gotten around the whole school. Before all of it had happened she was a load and fun person to be around but when it got sent around she was not herself, she would cry all the time but at the same time acted like everything was okay. She’d put on a smile just so everyone would leave her alone and wouldn’t stare at her.
When i was seeing her she seemed to be getting more unlike herself it scared me because i didn’t know what to do, or how to take her pain away. The humiliation she was feeling was getting to hard for her even to be at school. She even pretended she was sick so she didn’t have to go to school and face everyone and their opinions. I was there by her side through this whole experience, We have been through so much in the past five years and this just made us even more closer then we already were.
I saw everything that had happened to her. When she wasn’t even when she wasn’t around I heard people talking about it and how much they hated her. They didn’t even know her and that hurt me a lot. I can’t imagine what she felt and i would never like to either. Watching my best friend go through this made me realize what can really happen if you attempt to send this to a boy you think you love him and he loves you, or even a guy who tells you your beautiful.
The joke about this all is that we thought this guy who sent the picture around was our best friend. Our friendship wasn’t the same after this happened, and never will b. Sometimes the people you think you can trust let you down. She got through all of this eventually with me by her side acting like we did at the start, before all of it happened. True friends will stick by you know matter what.
Just think before you send that picture of your body, do you really trust him?
I would be lost without my iPhone, it reminds me where I am meant to be, kills time when I’m bored, and connects me with friends and family any hour of the day. On my 18th birthday, I received my first mobile phone. Mum thought it would be good to have one “in case of emergencies”. I was the first of my group of friends to get one; I didn’t even have anyone to text! Ten years on…. everyone seems to have a mobile phone, availability is now 24/7!
Within the last two years I have seen an explosion of technology based bullying. I have also seen the powerlessness schools and the community have in addressing the issue. The “Say No To Sexting” project is catchy, appealing to the eye, and student driven. Watching a small group of girls be so engaged in the school community, educating others and promoting the message “Say No” has been rejuvenating and made me feel immensely proud. I have seen young women destroyed socially and emotionally from innocently wanting peer approval, and sending on an image – and here are a group of girls that have seen people make mistakes, and want to improve outcomes for others.
We can all frown upon young people and their use and understanding of “technology” however I believe as adults we are here to empower young people to make the right, informed decisions. As a group we have really emphasised the message that any image that depicts a minor in a sexual activity or indecent manner is considered child pornography, and anyone who passes on or receives those images is liable to face criminal charges.
My motto, as always, “Knowledge Is Power” guides my practice when working with young people and technology. My role is to facilitate and educate, to assist young people to gain an understanding of the legal, social and emotional consequences of using technology and empower them to stand up and “SAY NO”.