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The internet has so many amazing uses, the opportunities really are endless. But there is one way that folks like to use the internet that is somewhat more risqué and therefore, naturally, far more likely to backfire when it goes wrong… sexting.

Most people reading this will have done it, though maybe not to the same degree. When you can’t be with your significant other, smart phones becomes a really nifty tool to keep that flame going. From flirty messages all the way up to sending nudes, sexting is a part of mobile phone culture whether we want to use the facilities or not.

I personally believe we can firmly place the blame (or credit, depending on your viewpoint) for the rise of sexting to social media. I remember hearing about some saucy conversations that were already happening during MXIT days. From those days, till now, every improvement to social media and specifically to direct messaging has taken sexting up a level. Emoji’s, GIFs, Voice Notes… all of these add to the experience and then, for those who venture that way, there is the improved camera quality of the modern-day smart phone.

Now, I could get up on my soapbox and tell you all not to engage in sexting. And I do want to… because I personally just think its just an overall bad idea and some things should just be kept for the bedroom. However, I know that even if I do tell you not to, you are still going to go ahead and do it anyway.

So instead, I want to show you the risks, the legal consequences as well how to go about it in a way that won’t result in you becoming the latest trending topic for all the wrong reasons

Firstly, the screenshot is EVIL! You send messages or images to someone and they could very easily take a screenshot to keep for themselves or to send on to other people. The screenshot is one of the leading causes for cyberbullying in teens. Kids are sending nudes to their boyfriends and girlfriends thinking they can trust them and the next thing they know, a screenshot is doing the rounds at school. Sexting should only take place between two people who trust and respect each other completely.

Without that, we could find ourselves in the middle of a scary situation – sextortion. Say someone now has that screenshot of you in some stage of undress. It can very quickly turn into a “do this for me OR I will post this image…” situation. No one wants to be stuck caught between a rock (extortionist) and a hard place (viral nudes).

Speaking of awkward positions… have you ever sent a message to the wrong person? Now imagine it’s not a text but rather, a naked photo. Does anyone remember that mom who sent that image on WhatsApp that was meant for her husband to the hockey moms’ group? I still cringe at the thought.

In terms of the legal side of things, I specifically want to talk to those of you who are either under 18 or in a relationship with someone who is. Listen up now guys… not only is it risky but it is illegal to make, possess, download, store and share sexual images, photos, and videos of a person under the age of 18. This also includes any sexual images, photos and videos that a child may have taken of themselves. It all falls under creating, distributing and possessing child pornography which is a very serious offence.

If you are watching this and thinking… nah, my kiddo will never engage in that sort of thing, I want to encourage you to TALK to your kids. It can be slightly awkward talking about this topic with your child, but if it helps them protect themselves, it is worth it. Chat about risks and consequences related to sexting and taking nude images and make sure that they understand the concept of a screenshot. Remember, digital privacy can never be guaranteed.

This next part goes for all of us. Don’t allow yourselves to be pressured into doing something you are not comfortable with. No means no and anyone who can’t respect that is not worth your time.

Be like that girl whose chat screenshots went viral a while back… when asked for nudes she offered pictures of her breasts, legs and thighs and proceeded to send pictures of chicken pieces. What a legend.

After reading all that, if you decide to go ahead and do it anyway, please bear the following in mind as you snap away

  • Make sure your face and your genitals are never in the same picture
  • Avoid having anything in the picture that can identify you… a tattoo, a specific piece of jewellery, etc
  • DO NOT do it at work or use any work platforms or networks to send your messages
  • Make sure that you are using a secure messaging channel
  • Ensure that the images are not being backed up to a cloud folder somewhere
  • Triple check who you are sending it to before you hit that little send arrow

Here’s a tip: if you do send it to the wrong person, you can delete it immediately but you must be sure to select the option to delete it for everyone. But you need to be fast! People are addicted to their phones and are always on them, so best be quick if you send the wrong pic!

Overall, I get that sexting can be fun and spicy and don’t we all want some more of that in our lives. But there are risks involved and it should be carefully considered before you enter a sexting relationship.

Do Your Part. #BeCyberSMART.
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