Many young people think sexting is acceptable because they are surrounded by pornography every day, says the Australian Christian Lobby.
The Victorian director of the ACL, Daniel Flynn, told Crikey: “Young people are in an environment where they are bombarded with pornography on television, outdoor advertising and in movies. So the sending of a sexualised image doesn’t seem like an inappropriate thing to do. What makes a difference now, is that these images can be circulated at the speed of light, and the breadth of distribution is what makes them most damaging.”
Crikey and journalism students from Swinburne University have teamed up to look through the 60 submissions to the Victorian Law Reform Committee’s current inquiry into sexting (the practice of taking explicit images and sending them electronically, with or without consent).
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In its submission to the inquiry, the ACL said increasing sexualisation occurred despite clear guidelines for television, film, radio and print content.
“Even our music clips are very pornographic. Apathy is also a factor. Things that we would certainly consider as pornography are in sight when young kids are lining up to get a slurpee at 7-Eleven. Our own apathy, is that we are doing nothing about it. We need to send a message to our young people that they don’t have to be sexualised to be accepted, to be liked or approved in their peer group,” Flynn said.
One young woman, Grace Condidorio, 18,of Cobram in northern Victoria, agrees. She told Crikey she had witnessed a few of her friends being embarrassed by private messages having been released on Facebook. “Everyone wants to be like what they see on TV,” Condidorio said. “Sexting makes kids feel like they are sexy and in control just like people they see in movies.”
The ACL submission refers to an incident in Cincinnati, Ohio, where a young girl, Jessica Logan, committed suicide after a naked photo of her was circulated at her high school. “It’s a tragic case,” Flynn said. “There was a lot of bullying associated with that, a lot of name calling … she used to hide in the toilets.”
He said a similar case had happened in South Australia. “There was a boy who wanted to have a sexual relationship with a girl when she wanted to break up. He used an image of her, as manipulation to achieve his end.”
Flynn said an internet filter would be a step in the right direction, due to the increasing availability of pornography. “The ACL has repeatedly requested the federal government to put a mandatory internet filter on to block refused classification material. It was a promise going into this last election but that promise hasn’t been implemented.”
The lobby group also recommended that schools implement a code of conduct to educate young people on the dangers of sexting.
“There should be surveillance of phones at school to the extent that they’re brought to the attention of the school authorities and enforcement in schools leading to reporting to the police as appropriate. Headmasters have to be involved, there should be a lot of education, we should be engaging the kids in classrooms. There have not been a lot of cases but I’m sure the community wants to protect children,” Mr Flynn said.