Carry on sexting? That’s no way to help your kids… | Barbara Ellen

Parents may not want to go as far as Jeremy Hunt in policing cyberspace, but the desire to be ‘cool’ can make a laissez-faire approach even more dangerous

If Jeremy Hunt’s proposed ban on sexting for the under-18s was met with confusion – how could this even be technologically possible? – there was also derision for him blundering into the arena of youth sexuality at all. Which was fair enough when the criticism came from young people – it’s their prerogative to roll their eyes when a politician starts stumbling gormlessly into their territory, threatening to lay down the law. However, while Hunt’s proposal was wrong-headed and not just on a technological level – so a 16-year-old could have sex, but not sext? – at least he had an age-appropriate response and wasn’t endeavouring to be “cool” and “dahn with the kidz”.

Obviously, kneejerk hysteria about youth sexting would solve nothing. It appears to be mainly teenagers just goofing around, within their own peer groups, pushing the boundaries, in an experimental “behind the bike sheds” fashion. However, there’s the other side of it, where sexting starts forming a Venn diagram with revenge porn, and vulnerable young people can end up humiliated, hounded, even blackmailed and suicidal, particularly with regard to images that don’t always miraculously disappear.

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