"Sexting" is a new and worrying trend among teenagers – sending nude pictures of themselves via their mobile phones. Here's what all parents should know about this phenomenon.
Kissing behind the bike shed at school and passing love letters in class are so passé. These days, teens are engaging in "sexting" — sending naked texts of themselves to their boyfriends and girlfriends.
If you haven't heard of sexting, you're not alone. It's a relatively new phenomenon in the cyber-world and through it teenagers are, unfortunately, the latest targets for sexual predators.
Kids will always be kids. Put teenage hormones together with a lack of judgement and it's not surprising that children get up to things that parents don't want to know about.
The difference now is that advances in technology, such as the internet and mobile phones, simply give kids better tools to misbehave with, heightening the potential for mischief.
The generation gap between parents and children is getting wider as adults become more disconnected from the technological world their kids live in.
Police have said that sexting rates are already high and the Kids Help Line reports that 50 per cent of its bullying related calls are attributed to this type of cyber-bullying.
Now, it seems, is the time for parents to take action and become more familiar with their children's world.
The crucial issue behind sexting is that these images of children are falling into the wrong hands or, increasingly, into the view of a worldwide audience on the internet.
A disturbing survey by Girlfriend magazine reported that as many as 40 per cent of young girls surveyed had been asked to send sexual images of themselves via their mobile phones.
The Age newspaper in Melbourne also surveyed local teens and, among its findings, were three 15-year-old girls who responded that they enjoyed the positive reaction sexting creates, saying, "Girls feel like they can't get attention without putting themselves out there like that".
Even more alarming were the comments of two men, aged 21 and 17, who said they often sent and received these messages "because we can and we can get away with it".
While teenagers may think that sending these images to their friends or potential suitors is harmless, any image that portrays a minor in an indecent manner or engaging in sexual activity is regarded as child pornography and people who receive or pass on these types of images are risking criminal charges, whether they are a minor or an adult.
Parents need to become more aware of what their children are doing with their mobile phones and personal computers because what might seem like a harmless image of themselves to be used privately can fall into the hands of sexual predators and be posted across the internet.
What parents can do to protect their children
- Teach children the dangers of this type of behaviour and advise them to think before they act.
- Ensure children know that they are not to send pornographic images of themselves to anyone either over their mobile phones or via the internet. Even minors who have child pornography in their possession can be charged under the law.
- Teach children about the types of sexual predators that are out there and may prey on them.
- Parents should familiarise themselves with the new technologies that are around, so they understand the potential for exploitation, as well as what their kids are doing.
- Parents need to overcome any embarrassment they may feel about talking to their children about sex, so they can be effective when educating their kids about the dangers associated with child pornography.
- If parents are going to give their child a mobile phone, ensure they are mature enough to use it appropriately.
Your say: Are you worried about how your children use their mobile phones?
Video: Call for inquiry into sexting