Whilst sharing suggestive images or text messages may seem like innocent flirting, sexting can have serious social and legal consequences if students are taking and/or sharing sexual images of themselves or peers who are minors.
Creating and/or distributing sexual images with minors may constitute the production and/or distribution of child sexual abuse material. This can be the case even if the people in the image are willing participants. Outcomes vary by state and territory and are addressed on a case-by-case basis.
Students may also encounter social consequences. Images can easily escape their control through being shared more broadly than they had anticipated. This can have a long-term impact on their digital reputation. Images can also potentially be used for cyberbullying or cyberstalking, or they may attract unwanted attention from others.
To help protect their image both online and offline, young people need to consider how they manage their messages and images and those of others. If you suspect, or are made aware of, sexting activity in your school, you can contact the local police or your education authority for more advice.
Be very cautious if you have intercepted any content which may constitute child sexual abuse material, and do not interact with the information, forward or share it in any way, including to school authorities. Immediately seek guidance from local police.
There are plenty of practical measures you can take in your school environment to help reduce the risks and incidences of sexting amongst your students.
Refer involved students to confidential support services such as Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800, which is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Implement a cybersafety curriculum to equip students with critical cybersafety skills and knowledge. Resources of particular relevance for teachers are the Tagged video and lesson plans for secondary or the Sexting Units of Work for middle and upper secondary students and Cybersmart Access for students with special education needs.
Read and download copies of So You Got Naked Online for students to access in the classroom. It provides practical advice for students who have over-shared online.
Print your own posters for use in senior common rooms and welfare areas.
Look at education resources around respectful relationships, such as Respect me. Don’t Sext me produced by the South Eastern Centre Against Sexual Assault in Victoria.
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