Abbotsford police urge teens to say ‘It’s a No’ to combat sexting, online harassment

Click to play video: 'Abbotsford police launch ‘It’s a No’ anti-sexting campaign' Abbotsford police launch ‘It’s a No’ anti-sexting campaign
WATCH: Abbotsford police are targeting teens with an anti-sexting campaign and as Catherine Urquhart reports, the 'It's a No' message appears to be getting out – Apr 26, 2019

Teens are notoriously difficult to sway with targeted ad campaigns, but Abbotsford police say they’ve already found success with their latest initiative.

The department launched their “It’s a ‘NO'” campaign last week in middle and high schools across the district urging kids to avoid inappropriate or sexual texting and social media requests.

Members of the AbbyPD Youth Squad say their message is clearly making an impact, based on the reactions they’re getting from students.

WATCH: Abbotsford police educate students about the risk of sexting

Click to play video: 'Abbotsford police educate students about the risk of sexting' Abbotsford police educate students about the risk of sexting
Abbotsford police educate students about the risk of sexting – Apr 26, 2019

“We get lots of girls, and even the guys too, coming to us after we give our presentations with concerns and requesting help from us,” Const. Deanna Dixon said. “So the feedback has been really positive, and we’re excited to be out actually showing this to the kids and helping them.”

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According to a recent study cited by the campaign, almost two-thirds of teenage girls have been asked for intimate photos.

Another study published just this month by non-profit group MediaSmarts says about four in 10 young Canadians have sent a sext and more than six in 10 have received one.

READ MORE: 4 in 10 young Canadians have sent a sext, report says

At the centre of the initiative is a meme that kids can send to anyone who requests a sexually explicit photo or tries to engage in an inappropriate conversation on social media.

Police say sending the meme, which also reads “It’s a ‘NO'” along with a large “X,” is an effective way to shut down an interaction.

“We’re visiting every school with the presentation, so kids know that everyone’s getting the message,” Const. Mary Boonstra said. “So anyone who gets that image back, they know, ‘If I send the message again, maybe this time the police come.”

Dixon said the Youth Squad also wants male students to get the message that possessing explicit photos can have dire consequences, including potential child pornography charges.

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“I think when we get to the point where we talk about criminal charges, that’s when the young men start to snap to attention,” she said.

READ MORE: More teens are sexting and sharing sexts without consent: University of Calgary study

The campaign aims to show the long-term effects of sharing sexually explicit photos, which can lead to online harassment and worse.

Carol Todd, whose 15-year-old daughter Amanda Todd died by suicide in 2012 after getting targeted by an online predator, is applauding the campaign.

“I’ve seen the devastation of how images and words can hurt young people,” Todd said. “It can just crush them.”

Boonstra and Dixon said more and more kids are becoming aware of what sharing inappropriate messages and photos can lead to.

“These pictures can stay online forever and follow people for years, or resurface years later unexpectedly,” Boonstra said. “We want to make it very clear: send the meme, shut the conversation down.”

—With files from Catherine Urquhart

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