A sexting episode can be among the most difficult topics for teens to talk about with parents and teachers, according to Tracy Adams, CEO at yourtown/Kids Helpline. But early education about cyber-safety can provide young people with greater confidence to discuss the issue if the need arises.
Ms Adams revealed that for the first six months of 2019, Kids Helpline’s teens and young adults tip sheets on sexting received over 40,000 page views, making it the third most popular topic on the site. Over half of the traffic to this page came from web searches about the issue.
As free, private and confidential 24/7 phone and online counselling service for young people aged 5 to 25, Kids Helpline has also revealed that its counsellors are hearing from children who are feeling powerless and unsure of how to respond to requests for sharing explicit images online to their friends.
“Young peoples’ understanding of the consequences of oversharing explicit images is low or they may think they’re the exception and nothing bad will happen to them,” said Ms Adams.
Kids Helpline has highlighted its concerns about graphic images of school-aged girls being posted and traded on the internet.
“Perhaps most worrying is that the average age of those contacting us was only 13 years, suggesting the objectification of girls begins at a much earlier age than many imagined,” Ms Adams added.
“Navigating damage to reputation through non-consensual sharing of explicit images can be problematic, it can affect behaviours, emotions and self-identity, potentially leading to stress, anxiety and depression.”