'Worryingly' large number of young Canadians sharing sexts
A new Canadian study shows an increasing number of teens are uploading a lot more than just selfies on social media.
They are "sexting" or sending revealing photos of themselves.
The bigger issue though is that those photos are then shared without their consent. It's actually illegal in Canada to share intimate images without the sender's consent. But the study, called “Young Canadians in a Wired World, Page III”, found that even though most young people knew that, it didn't stop them from sharing sexts.
It's unusual not to see a young person on a cellphone. Increasingly common is what they are doing on those cellphones. A national survey of 800 young people aged 16 to 20 found that about 4 in ten, or 41% of them have sent a sext, which is a sexy nude or partially nude photo. Two in three, or 66% have received one.
“It's become like a norm almost,” says one young student in Ottawa.
According to the results of the survey, conducted by MediaSmarts and the University of Toronto’s Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work, 42% of young people who have sent sexts have also had one shared. And that is illegal in Canada.
Matthew Johnson is the Director of Education for MediaSmarts, “Sharing intimate images, even of someone over 18, is a crime and most of our sample knew that,” says Johnson, “Two-thirds knew it was a crime but it has no influence on whether they have shared sexts.”
The survey found that while young people were less likely to cyberbully, there was almost a moral blind spot around sharing sexts.
More than one in three, or 35%, felt that a girl "shouldn't be surprised if it gets around,” which was reflected in the sentiments of another student from Ottawa, “If you don't want it being shared, don't do it.”
“This is something we know is hurtful and harmful,” says Matthew Johnson, “and it is happening to a worryingly large number of people and a worryingly large number of people don't think there's anything wrong with it.”
So what role can parents play in this? Well, surprisingly, a big one. Johnson says research consistently shows that young people do respond to moral arguments and turn to their parents for guidance.
“So that's one of the most important things for parents to know,” says Johnson, “that even if they feel they are out of their depth technologically, we still have the same role in guiding kids as we did before and they still want to have us at their back.”
The jury however is still out on that.
“N way,” says another Ottawa student, “because parents did not do this; they have no knowledge on this. This isn't an issue parents need to bother with. It’s like talking about sex, which is not happening.”
The authors of this study say a lot of work needs to be done to help young people realize that sharing sexts is a big deal and can have lasting consequences.