Sexting Laws

What do new sexting laws mean for parents?

It is no surprise that our kids are increasingly socialising and interacting online and via social networking platforms. It also should come as no surprise that with this increase, particularly by adolescents, the corresponding increase of risqué and risk taking behaviour will occur. The sharing of images between consenting and not so consenting teens, and even tweens, has led to some situations ranging from downright embarrassing to devastating and catastrophic, some even leading to a criminal record.

A year or so ago I wrote about the confusion regarding our laws as they related to sexting and the sharing of explicit images via technological means. I wrote of the need for laws to keep up with the changing times and to remain relevant to this new world lived largely online.

Thankfully the powers that be have begun to recognise this too.

In my home state of Victoria, the two main changes to the laws will state that

  • it is illegal for adults to send or threaten to distribute explicit images to someone without their consent
  • teenagers caught sexting will no longer be placed on the sex offender register or maintain a criminal record (unless an assault has taken place)

Whilst the previous laws were designed to protect the kids, the technology surpassed these ideals and subsequently we were left with laws that were no longer protecting those they set out to.

But for parents, what does this mean? Does this change anything?

It is certainly good to know that it will be an offence to intentionally send explicit messages with the intent to hurt or humiliate. It is also good to know that kids being more ‘careless’ than ‘criminal’ will now not be dealt with so harshly.

Regardless of what the laws do however, we want our kids to know that this type of message sending is rarely going to end well for those concerned. In conversation with our kids we need to remind them that

  • their boyfriend or girlfriend of today may not be so in a week or months time.
  • Once online it is impossible to delete photos or prevent them being spread. Even photo sharing apps such as Snapchat which rely on the premise of photos deleting do nothing to stop people screen saving photos and sharing.
  • Revenge porn and bribing people with photos is something that happens regularly and despite now being illegal, it is not something we want our kids involved in (nor do they need an expensive and humiliating court case).

There are those that argue that sexting is just a modern way of ‘flirting’ and not something we should get too concerned about. But I don’t know, call me a prude,  but I can see no good from ever having explicit photos of my kids being circulated for the world to see.


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