Sexting

Sexting is defined as sending and receiving sexual, nude and semi-nude images electronically. While there is evidence that sending sexts is not by itself a harmful activity, significant harm can be done when these sexts are shared without the original sender’s consent.

Parents, schools and law enforcement agencies are grappling with how best to respond to this issue. In the United States, sexting amongst youth has resulted in teens facing child pornography charges.

Studies about the gendered aspects of sexting consistently show that while little criticism is attached to boys who send sexts, girls who do so are perceived as being sexually immoral: girls who sext are seen as using their sexuality to get public attention, while boys – even if their sexts become public – are assumed to be doing it only to get the attention of one prospective partner. [1]

There is little evidence that sending sexts is by itself a risky act: for example, one study done with American university students found that many reported positive experiences. [1]

Since sexting – and, in particular, our concerns about it – are regularly portrayed as a largely female phenomenon, it may be surprising that data from MediaSmarts’ Young Canadians in a Wired World (YCWW) study show boys and girls being equally likely to send sexts of themselves.

Typically, youth sexting occurs in three contexts: in lieu of sexual activity for younger adolescents who are not yet physically sexually active; to show interest in someone a teen would like to date; and, for sexually active youth, as proof of trust and intimacy.

Talking to Your Kids about Sexting — Tip Sheet

Sexting is most likely to have negative consequences when the person sending the sext has been pressured into doing it.

It’s hard to think of a recent digital technology issue that’s captured the public imagination more than sexting. This may be because it combines elements of the classic moral panic with more modern “technopanic,” provoking worries not just about the morality of our children – and, in particular, young girls – but also about the possible effects of technology on how we grow, think and behave. As with most panics, of course, the issue is substantially more complicated and less sensational than we perceive it to be, and while it’s unlikely that our worries about sexting will ever seem in retrospect to be as absurd as our grandparents’ fears about crime comics, MediaSmarts’ new data shows that many of our beliefs and assumptions on the subject need closer examination.

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