Corporate Responsibility

Sexting - risky selfies with spice

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Best not to let private nude photos make it online.

Today, sexting is a widespread but dangerous practice among young people that feeds on narcissism and sexual needs. The coinage is made up of the words “sex” and “texting“, meaning that erotic text messages are being sent. Generally, the term is understood as meaning nude photos that are sent to a recipient. 

Parents may be shocked to find that sexting is widespread among young people. But a survey (German only) from 2015 showed that 51 percent of young people between the ages of 14 and 18 know someone who has sent nude photos of themselves to others at one time or another. One-third (33 percent) of them have already received photos or videos that show the depicted person partly or completely nude. Sixteen percent of young people stated that they have taken nude photos of themselves and then usually sent them to someone else. Because the practice is so widespread, educators are advising parents not to categorically forbid their children to sext or threaten to punish them. Instead, they say it is much better to raise their awareness of the dangers and risks incurred when doing it.

Sexting is usually rooted in curiosity. Young people are coming to terms with their sexuality. This includes becoming aware of whether they are attractive and desirable to others.

When sexting can become a problem

Sending nude photos can become problematic in many different ways.

  • Many senders are not aware that sexting can play a role in cyberbullying when private photos are disseminated. What was once proof of a person’s love then boomerangs on them and becomes the basis for shaming and exposure.
  • Voluntary shots can act as the basis for sexual exploitation and blackmail (sextortion). Blackmail (for example, accompanied by a threat to share the images with others) is used to demand money or further pictures.
  • Sending and possessing pornographic images is subject to criminal prosecution once a person turns 14, particularly when it comes to underage pornography. According to Section 184b of the German Criminal Code, criminal prosecution can be expected when images of children under 14 years are made, sent, and stored during sexting. The same generally applies to young people aged 14 to 18. The law only allows one exception to this – when the material has been produced with the consent of the person represented solely for personal use. However, this consent can be revoked, for example after the relationship ends.

In addition to making children aware of the risks, parents are advised to give young people rules of thumb to keep sexting from becoming dangerous, as well as to respond sensitively in the event that erotic photos are shared. Blame the person who is disseminating the material, not your child. Help your child to find a way to do something about it.

The best way to avoid difficulties is of course to refrain from sexting altogether. Sexting is certainly one form of communication in which parents find it hard to imagine their own child engaging. But shutting your eyes and ignoring the phenomenon does not help. 

More security for sexting – what parents should advise their kids to do

  • Think before posting: It is best to refrain from posting personal pictures and think about the possible consequences.
  • Use security settings and only give certain people access to content. Even so, remember that friends do not always remain friends, and that they can always copy and distribute photos afterward.
  • In particular, do not trust third parties. You never know what a user name conceals. Even in the case of apparently familiar chat partners, you can never be sure whether someone is reading over their shoulder and sharing information with others, or whether content is being saved and then distributed in the form of screenshots.
  • Maintain anonymity: When nude photos are made, make sure that you cannot be identified in them. They should not show your face, any tattoos, piercings, or very conspicuous markings.
  • Check the recipient: If you must sext, check carefully to ensure that the pictures are going to the person you intended to receive them. Better to check for the right recipient one time too many. 
  • Turn off automatic uploads: Many apps offer users the opportunity to upload new photos automatically. Young people who sext should be sure to switch off this function.
  • Be suspicious of apps: Do not rely on the claims of apps! Even deleting an app after 24 hours or 30 seconds is no guarantee that the material will not fall into the wrong hands. Photos can be obtained with a screenshot. And a video or photo can go viral within 24 hours.
  • Remember that relationships change and that trust can be betrayed. It is also important to make people aware that sharing others’ personal material is more than just a joke – it can have far-reaching consequences touching on criminal prosecution.

Further reading