New sexting laws for Victoria

The Herald Sun is reporting that:

ELECTRONICALLY sharing sexually explicit images of another person without their consent – also known as sexting – will become illegal in Victoria.

The government tabled its response to an inquiry into sexting in parliament on Tuesday and the legislation will also ensure youths found sexting do not end up facing child pornography charges.

Legislation will be introduced into Victorian Parliament in 2014, with penalties to be decided then.

The Herald Sun have also promoted the Australian Federal Police video warning young adults of the dangers of sexting.

Teen “Sexting” Behaviors

The US Department of Justice has recently released a report entitled Building a prevention framework to address teen “sexting” behaviours. Although a lengthy report, some pointers can be taken from the recommendations:

The focus group participants converged in the sentiment that parents and families play a central role in shaping teen values and decisions surrounding sexting and related issues. The participants also offered insights into both the necessity and challenges of engaging families and parents as part of our responses. Participants in the parent focus groups often lamented the laxness of standards and discipline exercised by other parents… we observed wide variation in participants’ level of atunement to, and understanding of, teenage social use of technology in general, and teen sexting behaviors in particular. Parents also regularly described teens’ use of digital communication technology as a source of tension and conflict, highlighting themes such as the costs of cellphone bills, challenges of enforcing and monitoring internet usage, and the negative and disruptive qualities of texting and social media.

Again, an open line of communication between parents and children is recommended as well as parents teaching their children about their expected values.

Teenagers’ anti-sexting app launched

Recently the BBC reported that a new app, Zipit, has been launched to help teenagers politely and wittily deflect requests for intimate pictures.

The free app from (UK charity) Childline offers users a choice of what the charity says are “witty responses” to send instead

Although Zipit is a free app, sending responses Zipit provides may incur mobile carrier costs. Zipit is available through iTunes and Google Play.

Parents are over confident about internet safety

US author, educator and consultant Jeff Utecht has written an interesting post on how parents are dealing with the issues social media are bringing to the family home. He quotes the UK newspaper The Guardian:

Andy Phippen, professor of social responsibility at Plymouth University, said sexting – where schoolchildren are encouraged to take explicit photographs of themselves and send to other pupils – was a problem in most schools, despite the study revealing that 89% of parents believe their child has not been touched by cyberbullying or sexting.

“There is a disconnect between how safe parents think they can keep their children online and their actual ability to do that,” Phippen said. “Those conversations are not being had – we have a hell of a long way to go on internet safety. In schools we hear teachers unwilling to talk to teenagers about sexual images because they worry about their jobs, schools unwilling to record instances of cyberbulling because they are worried about their Ofsted reports.”

These statistics are of grave concern and demand us all to delve deeper into the way our children are using the internet. Read the whole blog post here.

Sexting legal reforms need to be acted upon

Earlier this month, The Age reported on the recommendations of the Victorian Parliamentary Law Reform Committee on the issue of sexting. The government has 6 months to implement the 14 recommendations which include:

The two major changes are that an offence be introduced for non-consensual sexting, and that young people have a defence against child pornography charges if the two people involved in the image – the subject, and the sender – are legally allowed to engage in sexual activity, and that ”they are not more than two years older than any minor depicted in that image”.

In response to the report, psychologist Michael Carr-Gregg tweeted:

 Great move to ensure sexting teens are not treated like paedophiles.

Read the whole Age article here.

Snapchat and sexting

Snapchat is an app for iOS and Android that lets the user send a photo that can self destruct after a set period of time. Snapchat explains:

You control how long you want your friends to view your messages. We’ll let you know if we detect that they’ve taken a screenshot!

Recently I read in The Age that Cosmo magazine says Snapchat is the safe way to sext as the photos can’t be kept. However, as the snapchat FAQs explains, anyone can take a screenshot or screencast of your pic before it disappears. The only difference is you can control who sees your original upload and you can be alerted as to who has saved your picture.

However, once someone has saved your pic, there’s no way of controlling where and when it is reposted. Also as snapchat explains, without enacted privacy controls,

By default, anyone who knows your username or phone number can send you a message.

Read Mashable’s take on snapchat here and Common Sense Media’s view of snapchat here.

The lowdown is that anything sent digitally has the ability to be redistributed at a later stage. The ‘think before you send’ mantra still applies.

Sexting resource

The South West Grid for Learning (UK) has developed a resource for young adults and their parents relating to sexting.

Topics include:

  • What is sexting?
  • Can it happen accidentally?
  • Trust and friendship – considering what is appropriate to share and with whom
  • How images or videos can be shared online and what websites they might end up on
  • What are the first things to do
  • Will you get into trouble
  • How to ask your parents for help
  • Will this affect your online reputation and your future

The ‘Where to seek further advice and support’ section will not apply as this resource was developed for the United Kingdom. However, the rest of the information is very useful for young adults and their parents. Download the resource here.

Australian Institute of Family Studies report on the role of emerging communication technologies in experiences of sexual violence

Recently the Australian Institute of Family Studies published a report entitled The role of emerging communication in experiences of sexual violence. They explain:

This research study investigates how communication technologies facilitate sexual violence against young people and what challenges this presents for the Victorian criminal justice system. Based on interviews with young people and professionals working with young people, it examines the effects of technology on the lives of young people, the interface between emerging communication technologies and experiences of sexual violence, and the factors that enable or hinder appropriate legal responses. Communication technologies such as online social networking sites and mobile phones are considered, and their use in identifying and grooming potential victims, blackmail and intimation, sexting, harassment, and pornography.

Contents include:

Please note

Some of the content in this report contains information that may cause distress to the reader. If distressed, please call 1800RESPECT (1800 737 732).

This report is certainly well worth reading. Although communication technologies can be used for amazingly creative purposes, like everything, they can be abused and put others at risk.

Sexting – what every parent should know

New South Wales Department of Education and Communities has published a parents’ guide to sexting, including a podcast from a child psychologist:

Listen to child psychologist Kimberley O’Brien talking about the dangers of sexting.

Kimberly O’Brien on sexting

At a glance

  • Sexting involves the use of a mobile phone and the transmission of a sexual image or message between two people.
  • Educate your child about what it is and why it’s illegal.
  • Give your child suggestions of what to do if they receive a sexting message.
  • Discuss the consequences of sexting and the damage that can be done to reputations in the long term on the internet.

This is a great resource for parents. Access the whole guide here.