Saturday, 10 December 2011

A brief history of Sexting - A blogger missing the point?






Whilst I was interested in reading this article I disagree with some of its conclusions. At the moment I am doing some research in the UK looking at online risk taking behaviour with students aged 13-15. I work as a sex and relationship educator and have started including content on sexting with the lessons we teach in high schools. Whilst the history of sexting you outlined seems true and likely the media has done a great job of whipping up the issue I think the problem of sexting is larger then 1%. Our study which in this round has had 160 young people has a higher rate with 20% having seen a naked picture of someone they know. Now in a group of just 160 young people it could 1 or 2 have sent a naked picture and most have seen copies of these 1% pictures. But 20% seeing a naked picture of someone they know is significant.



Last year we did not ask that question but we did ask have you ever posted a picture that you would be worried about your parent/teacher seeing (combined with this years first round of survey we have now asked 400 young people). Worryingly a solid 10% have admitted to have posting an image online they would be worried about their parents seeing. Now this category is wide and we explained could include images in underwear or pretending to do a sexual act. Not just naked. But what worries me about this the attitude of online risk taking. Young people who say they know how to be safe online are choosing to take risks online. (For a full report click here https://docs.google.com/document/pub?id=1WcTxxerydUgfixY2SOeujiHYSO-YLw3mNXD6aJzSY-U)



This attitude could lead to all sorts of problems in the future. I think it is important to remember that sex and relationship education is not just about responding to young peoples actions now but to try and prepare them for the future. Lets compare sexting to another issue I teach on HIV. In the UK the rate of HIV for under 18s is less then 0.1% yet we still teach young people how to protect themselves. Why because the skills they learn can help them stay safe in many ways. Equally encouraging young people to take a responsible attitude towards sexting could help them stay safe in other ways relating to online behaviour.



We need to take a balanced approach and be careful not to assume every one is sexting all the time but to claim "1% of teenagers isn’t something we need to have a prevention focus on." shows a lack of understanding about how primary prevention works and a lack of willingness to tackle an emerging issue.





P.S. you mention the role of news agencies and bloggers but forget to include the pop stars influence