What is sexting?

Sunday, October 24th, 2010 | security

Hope Witsell, a girl from Florida, USA, was only thirteen years old when she committed suicide by hanging herself in September 2009. 

Why did she do that?  She was the only child of her parents, and enjoyed a happy home life – but four months before her death she did something, which had far-reaching consequences. 

She met a boy and developed a liking in him.  Hoping to attract his attention she sent him a picture of her exposed breasts. 

“Shocking,” you may say.  True, but not uncommon. 

An increasing number of children, some even in primary schools, engage in sexting – a practice of sending sexual messages by electronic means.  Sexting may be done in plain text format, but in many cases include pictures.  These messages can be posted on social networks such as Facebook, but the most common way of transmitting them is by means of cell phones. 

When Hope sent the message to the boy it was not the end of the matter.  Somebody saw the picture while using his cell phone and it was sent on to others.  Like a wild fire, fanned by teenage hormones, the image spread throughout Hope’s school, as well as neighbouring schools. 

You can imagine what this did to her reputation!  As she walked along the school passages she had to endure taunts such as “whore” and “slut”.  She was disciplined at school and grounded by her parents, but her downward spiral could not be stopped.  Eventually the mess she was in was simply too much for a thirteen year old girl to handle. 

What do we learn from this sad account?  Sexting is a serious practice with harmful consequences.  The moment you put a sex message out in cyber space, you become vulnerable.  Your reputation is at risk and this one thoughtless act can change your life forever. 

“But that is America,” you may say.  Don’t be fooled!  Sexting is a reality in South African schools. 

We must learn to deal with the practice of sexting, its consequences and – most importantly – its prevention.

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6 Comments to What is sexting?

Mark C
Sunday, 24 October, 2010

In SA schools teachers can tell you worse stories than this one (with all due respect). I can just reiterate that the doors of communication between parents, the school and the pupils should be open. As difficult as it is to make teenagers understand the issues around doing this type of thing we have to continue. Strict rules are not always going to help. It is a known fact that teenagers don’t always understand the consequences to the actions.

Psychologists say that the sentence:”What were you thinking?” is totally true for teenagers. Many do regardless of the consequences. It is when the consequences come, that it dawns upon them what the “wrong” was.

Teenagers ARE more reckless. Their brains are physiologically hot-wired like that. Hopefully “commom sense”, reasonable rules and guidelines by a support network will help teenagers navigate through some rough seas (or glitches) in life.

Sunday, 24 October, 2010

Very sad. What can we learn from this? Both school and parents responded with punishment. But if this is the response that children expect, are they likely to be open and honest with us?

Yes, prevention is best. This article is a valuable reminder to all of us parents and teachers, to keep lines of communication open… and to be involved in the lives of our children, so that we know what they’re up to and can provide guidance and protection from the impulsiveness of youth. And when they do err, we need to provide the love and support to help them deal with the consequences of their actions.

Mark C
Monday, 25 October, 2010

Check one of the Afrikaans newspapers over the weekend concerning learners who were having sex on the school ground. Another learner filmed them as evidence and gave it to the principal. Besides the (sex) learners being wrong. Was it also not against the law to record some one without their consent and give it to a third party? Also, is this not child pornography distribution when the movie on a mobile phone is given to an adult by a minor? What happens to the footage afterward?

[...] is responsible for establishing and enforcing policies to contend with cases of cyber-bullying and sexting in the school.  Classroom teachers have an even greater responsibility, since they are dealing [...]

[...] Amidst all the good stuff on the internet is a lot of filth.  Pornography, cyber bullying and sexting are just a few of them.  The presence of these things scares many educators into not using [...]

[...] your learners the necessary skills so that they can protect themselves against cyber bullying and sexting? Dangerous mix: The instant online life of cellphones combined with the poor impulse control make [...]

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