Walking with your family through the crowded streets this December, you are all taking in the incredible festive atmosphere of Christmas, the shops and markets, enjoying the beautiful aroma of freshly cooked food for sale, the glow of the lights and smile on people’s faces passing by. You might all pause to laugh, as your child’s device suddenly starts to play “Here comes Santa Clause”, the chosen festive notification alert.
Suddenly your attention is drawn to the look of horror on your child face, as they unlock their phone only to discover someone has Air Dropped a sexualised image of an erect penis to their phone. Fear and anger quickly envelops you as you look around at the many faces passing. The dark realisation that somebody in this festive crowd, has just exposed your child to this image and is probably looking at you right now, watching your reaction and that of your child’s. The child has just become a victim of “Cyber Flashing”
It will have come as a shock to many this week, to see a young 24-year-old Dublin woman charged with the defilement of a child, a teenage boy. This is something we have not really seen in Ireland up to now. A very young woman, who if convicted of the alleged offence, will be registered Sex Offender. The reported allegations involve a student from the school she worked in, who was under 17.
Students at Coláiste Bríde in Clondalkin, Co. Dublin, recently discovered in a study, that two out of every three people in the school, had received a sexualized image, or had been asked for one. The results led students to launch their own Sexting awareness campaign. Sexting is an obvious source of concern for the parents of young teens. It can also be a big problem for teens themselves. Imagine how difficult it must be, to exist in an online environment, where all of your own friends, followers and peers are exchanging sexualized images.
Today we would like to discuss, how harmful it can be for children to share inappropriate images of themselves, with others when using their devices. Incredibly we have found that children in Irish Primary Schools in 5th and 6th class, are very aware of this behaviour. What some children can believe is a just a funny image or photo of themselves, can have really serious long negative effects if shared with others.
What is Sexting ?
This video is aimed at young children to teach them what can happen if they were to take or share an inappropriate image and how quick it can spread
This is a series of videos aimed at teens
This series of videos are aimed at parents who discover an image of their child has been shared
‘Sexting’, described as the sending of sexually explicit messages, through digital devices, primarily the mobile phone. A relatively new phenomenon, with the saturation of digital devices over the last few years there has been a marked increase in those who will openly admit sending in explicit or inappropriate image to another’s digital device of themselves. The concept can sometimes be difficult for adults to grasp that children might engage in this type of behaviour. However, a study released in 2016 showed that Irish teens were the fourth most prolific senders and receivers of ‘Sexts’ in Europe. Many young people see it as a normal behaviour as everyone is doing it.
By their very nature children will experiment, show me yours and I’ll show you mine, combine this with a latest trend of selfies, on top of the current negative celebrity role models who frequently post near and sometimes completely naked images of themselves, then you’re bound to have children who will not see the harm in Sexting. Children have been found to have sent ‘Sexts’ to people they only met online, they are Sexting boyfriends or girlfriends or potential companions. Some of the teenagers are sexting out of peer pressure. Many just do it for fun.
A number of Apps have also really contributed to the escalation in this type of behaviour among children and teens. Snapchat, which was openly referred to as a Sexting App has become incredibly popular with young users, despite the 13-year-old restriction. This App encourages the taking of Selfies and sharing of the images. What the App also leads the users to believe is that the image is deleted after a set time period. With this knowledge in mind children who are natural risk takers will undoubtedly engage in a behaviour if there is little or no chance that they will get caught.
What may seem as a bit of fun, taking a picture of their bum can quickly escalate and get out of hand. As there are Free Apps that can save an image to a device without the sender’s knowledge the receive may retain or worst case scenario forward the image to others. This can have a disastrous impact on the sender. Users fail to realise the gamble they take once they send an explicit, or inappropriate image.
There have also been instances where young children getting changed after a match taken and the image forwarded, can you imagine the impact that would have. Any image forwarded by can have a terribly negative effect on a person’s self-esteem, their reputation and may have deep psychological consequences for the victim.
Sexting has also given rise to Revenge Porn, this occurs when a consenting couple who have exchanged images while involved in a relationship break up and one of them decided to release the images to get back at the other. Again this can have an incredible negative impact on the victim.
Teens and young children who take, share or even have these types of images get a serious shock when they discover that the images are in fact illegal. The production, possession or distribution of images of a sexual nature of a child are considered Child Pornography in Ireland.
Some Advice for Parents
- The number one priority here is communication with your child. They have to feel confident enough to be able to have an open conversation with you without a fear of reprisal
- As a parent when you decide to provide a device to a child you need to set down ground rules and understand what type of behaviours are acceptable and what is not acceptable when using the device
- Discover does your child understand what Sexting is, have they heard of it happening in their school. Even at Primary level we are seeing children telling us they are aware of this happening
- Remind them that once an image is send it is there FOREVER
- Help them understand that they should never send an image that they might not want their Grand Parents to see
- If they ever receive an unsolicited image make sure they understand that it is ok to tell a trusted adult
- Have they ever received a Sext, for younger children an inappropriate image
- Have they ever sent a Sext, for younger children an inappropriate image
- Do they understand the permanence of an image and that there is NO CONTROL over where the image may end up
- Using real life examples of the consequences of Sexting may help, we have a number of videos on this topic available on our You Tube Page https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL8eU6qs3Yu9ODW9nXYWRCyIexhcniw6gx
- Help them understand that they may end up bullied and cyberbullied
- Help them understand that may leave themselves open to be blackmailed or Sextorted as a result of sharing one image
- They may be prosecuted for the production possession or distribution of the image, and always remember that a deleted image on a device can always be forensically recovered in the case of an investigation