18 June 2014
We live in a digital age. You’ll have grown up texting, posting photos online, and letting your friends know what you’re doing through social media updates. It’s normal, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that every aspect of this is healthy or sensible. We’re always contactable, and because you can send messages instantaneously, sometimes we might send things without thinking through the possible implications. Your actions, both on and offline, will have consequences, and if you make bad choices your impulsive response could come back to haunt you.
Sexual images sent via text are known as ‘sexting’. There’s been lots of studies carried out to try and work out the extent of this practise, but obviously the results will only show those who are willing to admit that they’ve done it. Some surveys have suggested that as many as one in five teenagers have sent nude or semi-nude photographs.
It may seem as if everyone’s doing it, and like it’s harmless, but there are some really serious problems involved with sending this kind of message. Even if you’re in a happy and loving relationship, once you’ve sent that image it’s out of your control. If the relationship changes will you still feel comfortable that they have it? The chances are, it might not even just be the person you sent the sext too who will see the images; 17% share the images they receive with at least one other person.
While more boys than girls send sexually suggestive images, girls are slightly more likely to send semi-nude or nude images. Most people who sext do so with their boyfriend or girlfriend, although a massive 61 percent said that they were pressured into doing so at least once.
It’s really easy to forward messages, and you can save images, or even put them online with just the touch of a button. Even apps such as Snapchat aren’t totally safe: it just takes a second to screenshot an image, and then you’ve entirely lost control over who will and won’t see it.
It doesn’t make any difference why you’ve sent the message. It might have been as a joke, as flirting which got out of hand, or to show that you like someone. You might have done it of your own free will but you may have also sent the messages because you had been pressured into doing so. No matter the reason, as soon as you press send that message could show up anywhere.
Before you send that message…
Think about how you would feel if someone else saw that message or that photo of you. It could be anyone – your friends, your parents, your teachers or even employers further down the line. Images stay online forever even after you have deleted them and once posted online they belong to whichever site they are posted on.
Creation or possession of an indecent image of a minor is a criminal offence. If you are under 18 these images are classed as child pornography. The police could get involved and if they do it doesn’t matter if it’s your boyfriend, if you’re the same age, or if you’ve chosen to do it. It’s a really serious offence, and you could end up with a criminal record and have your name added to the sex offenders’ register.
Childline offer an app called Zipit which is free, and available through BlackBerry’s App World, Android’s Google Play and the App Store for iPhones. There’s lots of helpful tips on how to flirt without pushing the boundaries, and there’s also tonnes of images you can send in response to a request for sexts. While just saying ‘no’ might be met with more pestering, Zipit’s images are witty replies which will help break the tension and show that you just aren’t up for sending sexual snaps.
Remember that you don’t need to reply straight away, give yourself the chance to think about what you’re doing.