Wednesday, March 30, 2011

'Sexting' on the rise among teenagers

TEENAGERS are exchanging naked photos of themselves as a form of "insurance" to prevent their partners forwarding on saucy images, as the trend of sexting becomes increasingly common.
University of NSW researcher Nina Funnell has spoken to hundreds of young people aged between 15 and 18 about their sexting habits for a book she is writing and found sexting is an accepted part of adolescent dating culture, The Daily Telegraph reports.

The ongoing two-year research project into sexting - sending sexually explicit messages, photos or videos via text message - has revealed the adolescents are aware that filming their sexual poses and behaviour is risky.
"The common idea is that young people are doing this as a response to pressure or they're brainwashed by popular culture," Ms Funnell said.
"Young people I speak to don't say this. What I hear is it's about flirtation, pleasure and exploring their sexuality."Ms Funnell said that many students continued to "sext" even after finding out they risked criminal prosecution.
People aged under 18 can be convicted for producing, possessing or distributing images categorised as "child pornography" - even if the image is of themselves and they created it. Convicted minors could end up on a child sex offenders register.
While the laws aim to protect children from sexual predators, Ms Funnell said they also criminalise innocent flirting between teenagers.

"How can someone be both a perpetrator and victim of the same crime?" Ms Funnell said.
"It's putting legal constraints on young people's right to explore their sexuality in ways which are familiar to them. If you were filmed or the images are distributed without consent, then that should be treated as a serious breach of legal and ethical codes."

But University of Technology communications law professor Michael Fraser said the legislation is appropriate.
"There is a widely held view that would make light of this [sexting] as a kind of an ordinary personal expression by teenagers between each other, but I don't think that.
"If an image is truly porn and then sent online, it is not innocent. We need not normalise that type of behaviour," Professor Fraser said.

"Minors are in a very vulnerable position and need to exercise much greater caution ... Quite apart from any legal consequences under the Act, those images can have an indefinite life on the web."
Deakin University psychology Professor Marita McCabe said teenagers have always "pushed the barriers" exploring their sexuality, now they're using technology.
"We would need to be careful about criminalising something that is consensual and not exploitative," adolescent sexuality expert Professor McCabe said.

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