Sexting generally refers to the sending of sexual images/comments via text message. It can be a part of normal, healthy adolescent sexual exploration and development (1). Quite often it is actually being used in place of having sex as a way to initiate romantic relationships. 11% of Grade 10 students with cell phones and 14% of Grade 11 students with cell phones say they have sent a “sext”. (2)
Unfortunately, in some cases, these images have been widely distributed and are meeting the definition of Child Porongraphy. The federal cyberbullying act, Bill C-13, came into force on March 9th, 2015 and makes it a criminal offence (up to five years in prison) for people aged 12 and older to share “intimate images” of anyone without their consent. Child pornography charges may also still be applicable to anyone under 18 who sends and receives images of another minor.
Ontario’s new sex-ed curriculum to be rolled out in September 2015 is aiming to address this issue early, starting in Grades 4,5 and 6, although parents also undoubtedly play a crucial ongoing role in helping ensure safe and healthy sexual practices and development in teens. To aid in these sometimes difficult discussions, here are some considerations to raise and harm reduction tips to share:
- Once you send images of yourself online what happens to them can be out of your control - It is probably best not to send them at all.
- Your image may be shared, or a trusted person’s computer may be stolen or hacked
- Relationships can end and feelings can change
- If you do decide to share pictures with a trusted partner, remember:
- If you are under 18 it may be illegal
- Only send pictures to someone you trust, who cares and respects you
- Agree how to stay safe with your partner: do not have distinguishing features (your face, tattoos, your bedroom) in the picture
- Avoid drinking and sexting
What if someone shares your child’s picture without consent? Needhelpnow.ca is a Canadian website with instructions on how to get your picture removed from social media. It also has a support line and reporting resources for both youth and parents.
For patients, if you have more questions, feel free to talk to your Magenta Health family doctor. Dr. Aarti Kapoor is currently accepting new patients. Click here to register as a new patient.
*reproduced from “Adolescent Sexual and Mental Health Toolkit for Clinical Trainees” by Dr. Aarti Kapoor
(1) Ybarra, M. & Mitchell, K. (2014) "Sexting" and Its Relation to Sexual Activity and Sexual Risk Behavior in a National Survey of Adolescents: Journal of Adolescent Health, 55: 757-764.
(2) Young Canadian in a Wired World: Phase III study. The Trends and Recommendations, 2015