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For www. Media revelations in New Zealand that children have been watching pornography and posting sexually explicit images of themselves online has come as a shock to many, especially parents. Globally, young people do engage with explicit material. For example, research conducted in the UK in discovered that 94 per cent of children in their study had been exposed to pornography by the age of 14 years.
The most recent report by the Office of Film and Literature Classification in New Zealand found that pornography has become an important part of life for young people and they are using it as de facto sex education. Also, the Australian research cited above shows that only a minority of teens sext, and crucially, that few are harmed by the behaviour. This general, simplistic reporting ignores the importance of consent and the structural context in which consent happens. Yet, if we listen to them properly, we would hear how teens are resisting the dominant narrative.
Sexting is often used as an umbrella term which can include consensual and non-consensual sharing of intimate images and texts, it fails to reflect the complexities of sharing intimate images or words. The framing of sexting has a particularly gendered dimension , which tends to focus on girls as the protagonist and boys as passive recipients. This assumption is problematic as the evidence is inconclusive.
By creating the narrative that girls are sending more sexts, mainstream media is able to play into the wider moral panic about teenage girls and sexualisation. However, as Hasinoff argues in her book Sexting panic , the problem with this approach is that it fails to take into female autonomy and the possibility that sexting may be part of normal sexual expression. For boys sexting is generally framed around the legal consequences. For example, UK headlines frequently refer to boys receiving sexts and then being charged under child pornography laws.
For example, early in the New Zealand soap opera Shortland Street had an episode in which a teenage boy, Harry, sends an intimate picture to his girlfriend. Maxine Fleming, a producer on the show, said:. When I read the script, I was like, that is the cliff-hanger of the year for me. While media commentary on the show did offer advice for how to keep teens safe online, it is difficult to imagine a sexting story where a female protagonist is portrayed in such a light-hearted way.
While the segment predominantly focuses on women whose images were sent without consent by framing the debate around online harassment of females, Oliver highlights how our framing of sexting often fails to take into the wider context of victim blaming and rape culture:. Just watch how the news talks about this whenever it comes up. It should also be noted that teenagers are challenging commonly held assumptions on sexting. Referring to the non-consensual sharing of images, the website maintains that the fault does not lie with the creator but rather the distributor.
These narratives challenge the outdated idea teenage girls need to be protected from both sex and technology. By creating space for these narratives and listening to young people it may be possible to create a new, more nuanced framework through which adults view sexting. It is important that we, as adults, engage with this debate. We must continue to have open and honest conversations with our young people , no matter how tricky, and to support them. First published at www. You are free to republish the text of this article under Creative Commons licence crediting www. Please note that images are not included in this blanket licence.
Dr Claire Meehan is a Lecturer in Criminology working on the relationship between young people, digital technology and their sexual lives. Search for:. Claire Meehan November 4th, Teen sexting in the media: try not to panic 0 comments 6 shares Estimated reading time: 3 minutes. Teens, technology and sex Media revelations in New Zealand that children have been watching pornography and posting sexually explicit images of themselves online has come as a shock to many, especially parents. Maxine Fleming, a producer on the show, said: When I read the script, I was like, that is the cliff-hanger of the year for me.
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Teen Sexting and Prevention Strategies