Sexting is here to stay

July 6, 2016

Due to my schedule, i have never had an appetite for using apps that consumes all the productive time available but for those who have time, go for it. Yesterday, a blud asked me why am not on such services and was clear that I don’t have time.My timetable is full.Am not a teenager where I don’t have to think about loss of time.Sexting is always in the news for all the wrong reasons whether its in Africa or Unites States or China or Brazil.Thousands of incidents of teenagers circulating explicit images of other teenagers are under investigation across the world. It has emerged from a study estimate that police around the world charged at least 10,000 children for producing and distributing child pornography in 2015 alone. Any minor who takes an erotic image of themselves could technically be charged with child pornography offences, as could the person they send it to or even if the receiver is another minor and they are in a relationship. European Police have emphasised that they only use European laws with discretion to criminalise sexting only when there is evidence of coercion, threats or exploitation.The recent sexting scandal that hit Germany has recommended giving minors a defence against child pornography charges and introducing a specific offence for cases of non-consensual sexting. Meanwhile, many teachers and campaigners in United Kingdom have sought to introduce cyber-safety education programs into schools. Some of these are quite comprehensive.However, in my previous discussions with teenagers and tweens about sexting, I’ve learnt that many elementary and high school students are receiving a one off talk from a principal, teacher or law enforcement officer. These talks are pretty similar to the stranger danger speeches I received at school, but modified for a virtual world. They are full of horror stories about girls with destroyed reputations, boys charged with sex offences, and adults with no employment prospects due to teenage indiscretions.

These stories tend to be based on one or two high-profile incidents, usually from America where the setting culture is a phenomenon. They don’t reflect the experiences of young Africans or Europeans or Asians who are learning how to balance technology, sexuality and privacy. Many parents are uncomfortable with the idea of teenagers especially their own having a sex life of any kind and are often unfamiliar with the internet and social media. In the sexting headlines, several issues collide and it is no wonder that sexting attracts so much concern.In many ways, teenagers are trying to figure out how to manage technology in their personal lives just like everyone else. Dating and relationships now involve social media and digital technology whether we like it or not. This shift has given rise to new kinds of relationship abuse. Adults, as well as teenagers, have been victimised when an ex partner or casual hook up circulates images without their consent. Good examples include Ray J who posted a sex video involving him and his ex girlfriend Kim Kardashian.In Africa, Uganda’s songstress Desire Luzinda learnt the hard way when her former Nigerian boyfriend leaked her nude images online.Overall, private photos taken from dating sites or social media are being hoovered up by internet pornography sites. Once distributed online, it is almost impossible to prevent the photos from being viewed.Educating kids about internet safety means preparing them for a technologically mediated life, but many cyber-safety efforts are falling short. Kids and teenagers need to know more than just the dangers of social media. The internet acts as a force multiplier when someone wants to lash out at someone else like it happened with Desire Luzinda, the internet enables them to do this in much more harmful ways than in the past.Cyber-safety is not a standalone issue. It needs to be included in a child’s understanding of ethical relationships as well as the right ways to treat others like partners, friends and even people they dislike and how others should treat them in return.There’s no one who can prevent the harms of sexting by restricting young people’s access to online technology or by making them terrified of its capabilities. Instead, the best stakeholders can do is encouraging better relationships in which they don’t feel compelled to hurt the people around them online or offline and by ensuring they understand the warning signs when someone else starts behaving inappropriately. This places the onus back on adults of goodwill to make sure that schools, families and communities are places that foster healthy relationships.

Contador Harrison