Durban - Many children sext without taking into account the possible consequences of their actions.
Sexting is sending of flirtatious text messages or photographs of oneself by using electronic devices.
The South African Police Services have warned about the dangers of sexting:
Loss of control: Once an image, message or video has been shared, the sender has lost all control of where or how it will be distributed.
Humiliation: The humiliation caused by having explicit content circulated, can be devastating. In some tragic cases the level of despair and shame has led people to serious self-harm and even suicide.
“Sextortion”: A combination of the words “sex” and “extortion”. Extortionists and blackmailers have always leveraged their knowledge of other’s indiscretions, or their possession of compromising images and communications. There is no shortage of “sextortionists” hoping to leverage their victim’s sexual content for their own financial or sexual, benefit.
Legal consequences: Sexually explicit photographs, videos and communications, even when sent between minors under the age of 18, may be classified as child pornography, and the taker of the image, the recipient of the image, and anyone who shares the content may be charged and found guilty of crimes.
Social consequences: These can include humiliation, bullying and cyberbullying.
Physical consequences: Sexual content can increase the likelihood of becoming a victim of physical abuse. These images can end up on the Internet and in the hands of paedophiles.
The police have also listed safety tips which parents can use to protect their children from the dangers of sexting:
- Knowledge is power. Be informed of the latest cell phones and how they function.
- Even if you respect your child’s privacy, there must be rules. Insist on knowing your child's passwords and talk to them about ways to protect them.
- Talk to your mobile phone operator about filtering software to block inappropriate content and websites.
- Learn the common acronyms children use online and in text messages. See the list of common acronyms below.
- become involved. Your involvement in your child's life, including his or her online life, is the best insurance you can have for your child's safety.
- Talk to your child about the dangers of sexting. Let them know that it is possible to meet predators who can take advantage of them.