Sexting ‘becoming the norm’ among teenagers, charity warns - Today's news, tomorrow's lesson - 17 October

We like to imagine that, in the past, courtship rituals involved red roses, tea dances and romantic strolls in the moonlight. But today’s stark reality is that they more often than not involve a smartphone, some unbuttoned underwear and a text message.


Sexting ‘becoming the norm’ among teenagers, charity warns

Today's news, tomorrow's lesson - 17 October


By Adi Bloom

We like to imagine that, in the past, courtship rituals involved red roses, tea dances and romantic strolls in the moonlight. But today’s stark reality is that they more often than not involve a smartphone, some unbuttoned underwear and a text message.

Six out of 10 schoolchildren have been asked to make sexual images and videos of themselves, according to a survey conducted by children’s charities the NSPCC and ChildLine.

Of the 450 teenagers questioned, 40 per cent had subsequently created a sexual image or video. And a quarter had sent this to someone else, via text message.

Peter Wanless, head of the NSPCC, said that the results of the survey exposed the truth about adolescent relationships today. “It is almost becoming the norm that a young person in a relationship should share an explicit image of themselves,” he told presenters on BBC programme Newsnight.

In times gone by, a lovelorn teenager might simply have plucked petals from a flower – “he loves me, he loves me not” – to determine whether or not their feelings were reciprocated. Today, “sexting” often serves the same purpose.

And so a third of the teenagers who had created sexual images said that they had sent them to someone whom they were corresponding with online, but had never met. Fifteen per cent said they had sent the images to a stranger. (The distinction between “stranger” and “someone I’ve chatted to online” is not entirely clear.)

But while plucking petals from a flower may have an adverse effect on the landscape, the effects of sexting can be far more damaging. One in five teenagers who had sent “sext messages” said that their photos had subsequently been shared with other people.

Nineteen-year-old Daniel, from south-east London, talked about how he had argued with his girlfriend the day after she had texted him an explicit picture. “I got so angry, I was sending that picture everywhere,” he said. “It was mean. To this day, she hates me.”

Inevitably, some commentators have blamed the trend on a decline in family values. “How many teenagers understand what ‘respect’ is?” a Mail Online reader wrote. “No wonder they have no self-respect. Time we had some discipline back in homes and schools.”

“I blame the parents,” another added. “They need to teach their kids about decency and morals.”

Richard Follett, of the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre, said that parents should not allow children to use their laptops in their bedrooms, or to have access to the internet late at night.

But Jane Lees, chair of the Sex Education Forum, said that the effects of technology on children’s lives could not be switched off so easily. “We believe that up-to-date advice for teachers on sex and relationships education would help schools play a larger part in supporting pupils to understand the risks of sexting,” she said.



Questions

1.) What precautions should you take when sharing images with friends and online?
2.) Some commenters blame the sexting trend on “a decline in family values.” What does this mean and do you agree with the statement?
3.) What do you make of Richard Follett’s suggestion that parents “should not allow children to use their laptops in their bedrooms, or to have access to the internet late at night”?
4.) What are the benefits of social media and mobile technology when used safely?


Related resources


Sexting

  • This presentation to highlight the consequences of sexting includes a video and questions to help teenagers reflect on the effects of sending explicit images.

Digital rights

  • These resources from BeatBullying give teachers and pupils the opportunity to talk about the digital rights of young people.

Young people and social networking sites

  • Check out Childnet International's guide for teachers, parents and carers on how to talk to young people about staying safe on social sites.

Internet safety display

  • A handy list of rules on how children and young people can protect their privacy and stay safe online.

Netiquette

  • This short and simple summary of dos and don’ts for online behaviour and etiquette covers a wide range of issues from cyberbullying to copyright.


Further news resources


First News front page

  • Help your pupils understand the features of the front page of a newspaper.

Write all about it

  • Get students creating their own news report with this step-by-step guide.

What is the News?

  • A sociological and media perspective on what makes an event 'newsworthy'.

On the box

  • Help pupils to write their own TV news broadcast with this handy PowerPoint.

Structuring stories

  • A scheme of work to help students structure news stories.

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