The Ontario Provincial Police are urging everyone, especially teens, to give pause and think before sending messages and photos to others via text. Authorities say that teenagers incorrectly assume that messages and images shared among peers remain private and secure.
“Self-peer exploitation [known as “sexting”] has become a big social issue that no one has been adequately prepared to manage,” Inspector Scott Naylor, Manager of the OPP Child Sexual Exploitation Unit says. “Those with a vested interest in the protection of children need to get involved and learn how to protect them from permanently damaging their lives. Understand what self-peer exploitation is, and find out what to do about it. There are ways to intervene.”
Teens frequently engage in relationships with peers through the use of their mobile devices and computers that lead to “self-peer exploitation” (also known as sexting). As a result of misbelieving that they can remain anonymous, they often also engage in this type of behaviour with individuals whom they don’t know but have only ever met online.
Every day, thousands of teens are photographing and videotaping themselves in suggestive and compromising photos and sending the images through electronic devices to their peers. Quite often, this type of conduct can quickly become a dangerous game as those images never stay with the one intended to receive them. Instead they are frequently mindlessly passed along by the recipient to friends, who pass them on to other friends who continue this cycle of distribution while some post them to social networking sites, and download them onto the internet.
The OPP also wants people who redestribute images to be aware that they engaging in the distribution of child pornography can result in criminal charges. And parents, guardians, and educators also need to learn more about this serious social issue, the OPP says: “They should recognize the significance of this problem, discuss it with their teens and monitor their social media activities.”