MONTREAL – As children become more tech savvy and smartphones become more advanced, parents are becoming more aware of the realities of sexting and its consequences.
It’s with that in mind, that police, teachers, councillors and medical professionals have been working together to warn youth of the risks involved in sharing sexually explicit photos.
They are all urging parents to talk to their kids about digital safety.
It’s a term coined by the media, which the Canadian Centre for Child Protection describes as “creating, sending or sharing sexual images and videos with peers via the Internet and electronic devices.” It can also involve the use of messaging apps like FaceTime, SnapChat, Viber, WeChat or WhatsApp.
Is sexting dangerous?
“Many youth have an inability to see future consequences to sexting,” said Debbie Molloy, Manager, Access Mental Health, Alberta Health Services.
“Even if these sexts are deleted, you never know where sexually explicit messages, images or video will end up. This can emotionally impact young people now, as well as later in life.”
Read more: Experts weigh in on cyberbullying
In the last year, there have been several reports of young girls committing suicide after explicit photos of them were distributed amongst their peers.
A 15-year-old from British Columbia named Amanda Todd posted a video before taking her own life in October last year, that explained how she had endured years of harassment after she shared nude pictures of herself.
Two teenagers are facing child pornography charges after 17-year-old Rehtaeh Parsons was tormented when a digital photograph of her allegedly being sexually assaulted in November 2011 was distributed around her school in Nova Scotia.
In Quebec, after sharing sexually explicit photos of young girls, ten boys aged 13 to 15 face charges of possession, production and distribution of juvenile pornography.
“These cases are often complex investigations, however many of them are less about the ability to charge someone with a criminal offense, and more about education, prevention and providing the right resources for victims,” said Calgary police acting inspector Mike Bossley.
Possible signs of online exploitation
Sad or crying frequently
Displays of anger
Loss of appetite
Loss of interest in activities, hobbies or sports
Not wanting to attend school
A sudden change in their activity level on their own social media platforms
How can I help someone who is going through this?
Spend extra time with your friend
Let them know you will be there them and that they are not alone
Stick up for your friend to your peers
Challenge what others are saying by offering them a different perspective
Reinforce that things will get better and that you are there to help
Suggest that your friend speak to a safe adult
Reach out to an adult for immediate help if the situation involves things like threats, intimidation or blackmail or if you’re worried that your friend may hurt themself
More questions answered here.
How can I get help?
Anyone involved in a sexting incident can report it anonymously through cybertip.ca, Canada’s national tipline for reporting the online sexual exploitation of children.
Read more: What is Cybertip.ca?
A step-by-step guide for teens or their parents on how to get through a self-peer exploitation incident can be found at NeedHelpNow.ca.
– With files from Melissa Ramsay