Teens and Technology

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 A young woman texting on her phone while waiting for the bus.

Technology advances so quickly today, it's sometimes difficult for people to keep up with the latest trends and devices but it's important for parents to know what their children are doing online. Often times, youth don’t think about the consequences that can result from their actions, behaviours or decisions. In fact, two of the most common concerns voiced by parents today are about Sexting and Cyberbullying.

Sexting

The term 'Sexting' is a combination of the words sex and texting. It is the sending or receiving explicit electronic messages, containing nude or semi-nude photos or videos.

Between consenting adults, exchanging nude photos electronically is usually a legal activity however, creating and sending nude or sexually suggestive photos of people under the age of 18 goes against Canada’s child pornography laws. Our primary objective is to protect children and teens from being exploited, harmed, embarrassed or bullied by adults or other youth through the creation and distribution of these images, videos or other content.

The child pornography sections of the Criminal Code of Canada are intended to prevent the sexual exploitation of young people. More information is available about Child Pornography.

Why do teens sext?

51% of teen girls say it was pressure from a guy.

Talk to your Children

Often times, youth don’t think about consequences and they sometimes don’t understand the full effects and potential dangers from posting content about themselves online.

In many cases, teens share these photos while in a relationship with someone but in reality, these relationships don’t often last forever. In many cases where nude photos have been sent to large numbers of people, it was an ex-partner who distributed the photos.

In addition to this, technology is always evolving and parents don’t always know what their children are downloading or what the latest online trend is.

Apps (applications or downloadable programs) like Snapchat, Instagram, Vine or KIK Messenger, (just a few examples), are a few of the many ways that people are creating and sharing content these days. But many apps and other social media sites give the user a false impression that they have full control over who will see their content and how it will be used. The truth is, there are many ways to find and access this content and once it’s viewed, it’s easy to store and share. With the click of a button, a screenshot can be taken, photos can be saved, webcams can be hacked, or photos/videos can be shared and computer history can be accessed. It’s important to talk to youth about privacy issues and the long lasting impact that content they post may have on their reputation and goals in life.

Sexting and the Law

Although the issue involves mostly teens, it could affect anyone and there can be criminal consequences for those who send, receive or have these photos in their possession, including parents who may not know what is stored on their electronic device.

Charges may include:

  • Possession & Distribution, Accessing of Child Pornography (having a picture or video, looking at it on the internet or just simply showing someone). When it involves nude images of people under the age of 18, sexting may violate Canadian Child Pornography laws. This is an especially important consideration for anyone who is considering sending photos to other people that they have received.
  • Luring (asking someone to do a sexual act over the computer)
  • Voyeurism (taking a picture or video without someone knowing)
  • Threats (telling someone you’ll distribute their pictures)

Sexting can also lead to cyberbullying and a range of mental health issues including depression and suicide.

What Parents Can Do

The best thing you can do to help your child prevent any unwanted situations is to participate in your child's life and set expectations.

  • Spend quality time with your child and get involved in their pastimes.
  • Get to know your child's friends and their families.
  • Ask questions about where your child is going, with who and what they'll be doing. If need be, challenge your children's whereabouts or activities.
  • Monitor their cellphone usage and social media platforms (e.g. Twitter, Facebook, Snap chat, Instagram etc).
  • Ask them to show you what they do when they're online - what sites do they visit? What content are they searching? Who are they messaging or texting?
  • Be a positive role model and set the right example.

For more information or to speak to someone in our Youth Section, contact us at 613-236-1222, ext. 5355 or phone any of these help lines:

Child, Youth and Family Crisis Line for Eastern Ontario (24/7)

613-260-2360 or 1-877-377-7 775

Distress Centre of Ottawa (24/7)

613-238-3311

Youth Services Bureau

613-260-2360 (24/7 Crisis Line)