In this lesson, students learn to question media representations of gender, relationships and sexuality. After a brief “myth busting” quiz about relationships in the media and a reminder of the constructed nature of media products, the teacher leads the class in an analysis of the messages about gender, sex and relationships communicated by beer and alcohol ads. Students analyze the messages communicated by their favourite media types and then contrast it with their own experience.

Parents, schools and law enforcement agencies are grappling with how best to respond to this issue.

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 2018 study suggests that “sexting can be a healthy way for young people to explore sexuality and intimacy when it’s consensual.”

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’ study Non-Consensual Sharing of Sexts: Behaviours and Attitudes of Canadian Youth study show boys and girls being about equally likely to send sexts of themselves.[i]

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.

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.

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