In light of the shocking news that students attending a high school in Colorado have been involved in a huge sexting ring, Bjournal decided to investigate the impact of sexting in the UK. Students at Canon City High School, Colorado, are under police investigation after seizing a phone that contained “several hundred” inappropriate photos of students at the school. Several students have been suspended and an investigation is underway to identify the students in the images and to determine whether any students were coerced into taking the photos. Although this case is on an enormous scale, the ever growing problem of sexting isn’t just an issue for the US but also for the UK. There have been an increasing number of reports of children as young as eleven and twelve being investigated for sending nude photos of themselves.
What many young people, and many adults, do not realise is that if somebody under the age of eighteen takes an inappropriate photo of themselves, they are guilty of creating child pornography. If they then send it to somebody, a partner or somebody they are interested in, they are guilty of distributing child pornography. Teenagers have been warned that they could end up on the sex offenders’ register, should they be found to have inappropriate photos of other teenagers on their phones or computers. Regardless of whether a teenager is over the age of sexual consent (sixteen), if they are below eighteen the law still stands.
In September 2015, The Guardian reported that a fourteen-year-old boy has been added to a police database for sending an explicit picture to a classmate on the app Snapchat, which she then shared with others. It was reported as making and distributing an indecent image of a child after the incident came to the attention of an officer based at the school. The boy’s information will be kept on the Sex Offenders’ Register for ten years, and could be flagged if employers undertake an advanced DBS (formerly CRB) check. Because both the students involved are under the age of eighteen, the boy is not protected under the Revenge Porn Act. If he was, he would be considered the victim, not the offender.
Another incident involved a girl being cautioned by police after sending a topless ‘seflie’ to her boyfriend. After an argument, the boyfriend then shared the photo with his friend. The boyfriend was also cautioned, both of them for the crime of distributing child pornography. According to reports, these incidents start occurring around the age of thirteen and fourteen, when teenagers are in year nine. One Telegraph article reports that many young girls aren’t surprised when their nude photos circulate around school; “You just wait for it to die down and happen to somebody else”. It also reported that many feel like they are in a lose-lose situation, if they refuse to send photos they’re called frigid. If they do send photos and they’re called sluts.
One of the reasons these sorts of incidents aren’t considered a crime under the Revenge Porn Act is that many teenagers are unaware that what they are doing is a crime. They are also unaware of how quickly things can spread and go viral, according to the head of the NSPCC. The manager of the Revenge Porn Helpline tells the Telegraph that they tend to consider these incidents as ‘sexting gone wrong’ rather than revenge porn. The difference is that those posting pictures and videos as ‘revenge porn’ want the material to go viral, and as quickly as possible. With ‘sexting gone wrong’ it usually only circulates one school. However, this doesn’t mean that it doesn’t have the same impact on the victim, with many students being harassed and ‘slut-shamed’ because they sent indecent images.
Although there is no solution, a start, according to many, is to make young adults aware that they are actually committing a crime, and what the consequences are of doing so. With the availability of ‘ghost apps’ – apps which hide photos, passwords, notes etc, under the guise of a simple application such as a calculator- and the social issue of slut-shaming and revenge porn, there is no room for schools to be skirting around this issue. To find out more about sexting go here. If you have been a victim of anything mentioned above you can ring Childline on 0800 1111 or go to their website.
feature image: Getty images