'TextEd' Website Launched to Combat Teen Sexting
Filed under: In The News
Texting is ubiquitous in Canada, and growing every day. In September 2009, Canadians sent approximately 100 million text messages per day, and text message volumes have been doubling every year since text messaging was introduced in 2002. But when it comes to teens and pre-teens, this growth has raised concerns about exactly what kind of content is flying across the networks.
"Sexting" is the practice of sending sexually explicit messages and photos through texting, a practice that also appears to be on the rise. Although there are no current stats for Canada, a 2008 study of U.S. teens by The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy found that 21 percent of teen girls and 18 percent of teen boys had text messaged or posted nude or semi-nude photos of themselves. And it's unlikely that most of these teens consider the emotional consequences, the legal ramifications, or even the potential threat to their own safety, should those images get into the wrong hands.
The Canadian Centre For Child Protection has just launched a new website, www.textED.ca, to address the rise in sexually suggestive texting by young people. The goal of the site is to inform kids about the short-term costs and long-term ramifications of sexting, and to teach "respectful" texting. With games, quizzes and other interactive tools, the site teaches teens how to use texting technology safely and responsibly, and to know what to do if someone crosses the line.
If you are a parent of a teenager (or a tween), odds are that you regularly witness your child huddled over their phone, madly texting essential information to their friend or significant other. You may be wondering, what did she just send that's making her laugh so hard? Or what did he just receive that made him look so shocked?
"Adolescent behavior is less inhibited with the use of technology, so they tend to say and do things that they might not otherwise do in person," said Lianna McDonald, Executive Director of the Canadian Centre For Child Protection.
The Centre cited an Ontario text-luring case as an example of the possible dangers of sexually suggestive texting. A 14-year-old girl was exchanging texts with someone claiming to be a 15-year-old male. However, the male was actually a 20-year-old man with a criminal history of sexual assault, threats and physical assault. He had attempted to lure the girl to Kingston, four hours away from her home, and she was planning to run away with him. After receiving information from Cybertip.ca, police arrested the man and charged him with luring and breaching probation.
Some of the themes addressed on www.textED.ca will include how to deal with "textual" harassers and how to handle relationships and break-ups. The site will be piloted in 100 grade seven classrooms across Canada, with teachers incorporating the website into their lesson plans.