The Children’s eSafety Commissioner has fielded a “staggering increase” in sexting complaints involving teenage girls.
The complaints involve girls aged between 13 and 17 being pressured to send explicit photos of themselves, prompting calls for victims to come forward.
The office of the Children’s eSafety Commissioner executive manager, Julia Cornwell McKean, said the number of sexting-based complaints rose from 3% of all matters last financial year to 25% since July 1.
In a disturbing trend, she said, teenage girls were being coerced into sending images to people – often strangers – they mistakenly believed they could trust.
“That person then uses those images to blackmail the target into providing further, more explicit images under threat of exposing the initial material to friends and family on social media,” she told The Herald Sun.
“In all of these cases, we advise targeted individuals to collect evidence of the misuse of these images and, where appropriate, to contact police to report this as technology-facilitated abuse.”
A study of Australian teenagers by the CSIRO has found that nearly half of all senior secondary students had received a sexually-explicit image via text message.
The study, published in the journal Sexual Health, found that while a quarter of the Year 10, 11 and 12 students surveyed had sent a sexually explicit photo of themselves to someone else, about 42% had received a sexually explicit image.
Dan Brush, national leader of the intellectual property & ICT team at Colin Biggers and Paisley Lawyers, told The Educator that while schools can do little to prohibit sexting outside school, they should develop strategies around how to deal with students’ complaints and/or potential litigation.
“Law is something that parents and students are going to be concerned about, so schools really need to rise to the challenge,” he said.
“There has been enough bad press about this issue, and it’s perhaps incumbent on the schools to anticipate these problems and have a solution ready.”
However, Brush pointed out that depending on the scenario, there is only so much schools can do.
“Is the sexting between staff members or students? This might be something schools can regulate, but if it’s between someone in their school and a third party, this can be very difficult to regulate – even if educators know about it,” he said.
Dan Brush will be speaking at The Education Law Masterclass, which takes place on 27 October at The Mercure, Sydney. Early Bird and team discounts are available until 16 September.
For more information, and to register, click here