EDITORIAL: Think before you send nudes

Published on February 1, 2017

Different social media and communication apps on an iPhone can be used for socialization.

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When a teenager from the Northern Peninsula, N.L., was asked by a stranger for nude photos over the smartphone application Snapchat in the past few weeks, they reported the situation to a parent.

Sharing nude or semi-nude photos through apps like Snapchat is not rare. With Snapchat, the message or photo disappears after it is sent, although it can be replayed and a screenshot can be taken. But it notifies the sender if that has taken place.

If you ask a teenager if they have sent inappropriate photos, there would be quite a few who have. Maybe it's the generation, maybe it's the easy access to the Internet, maybe it's the pressure of peers, but overall, it's a common occurrence.

According to DoSomething.org, almost 40 per cent of teenagers have posted or sent sexually suggestive messages, 22 per cent of teen girls and 18 per cent of teen boys have sent nude or semi-nude photos of themselves and 15 per cent sent them to people they know only through the Internet.

The term used for this type of behaviour is called "sexting."

If you're a parent of an adolescent, ask yourself this, "Would my child send nude photos to someone else over the Internet or through text? And if they were asked for one, would they tell me?"

Assuming they wouldn't send a photo or believing they tell you everything might be the first thing parents think. But, DoSomething.org notes that 61 per cent of those who do send these types of photos are pressured into it.

The Kids Help Phone website gives a good description of what sexting is, and what young people should consider when sending sexts to anyone, their peers or strangers.

"Some young people who sext use it as a way to explore sexuality, trust, boundaries and relationships," the organization's website says. "But sexting can also be used as a way to bully, threaten, shame or blackmail people."

Several young women in Canada have taken their lives because of threats and exposure they never wanted to have. Amanda Todd was one of those girls.

In an online video that she filmed before she committed suicide, she said she was blackmailed after exposing her breasts for someone over webcam. That photo eventually began circulating around the Internet.

That's not always the outcome. The student who reported the situation to their parent opened a topic that some parents don't even know exists. The local school reported it on their Facebook page so that students and parents could open the conversation up with each other. No other reports have surfaced of similar situations in the region.

Teenagers have the right to their own bodies. They have the right to say no. They have the right to privacy. But with apps and websites like Snapchat, Facebook, Instagram, and being in the digital age, a photo taken right now can be on the other side of the world in a flash.

For those who are considering sending nudes or taking part in sexting, think before you snap and send. Do you trust this person? Are you comfortable having a photo of you out there potentially for others to see? Will you regret it once you send it?

Snapchat can be a great communication tool, especially for teens and young adults. Just be careful who you send your snaps to.