Publication

Cyber Bullying and Sexting

by Alex Kohn
01 June 2017
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Electronic devices and social media have many benefits for our children, both in relation to their social development and their education.  However, the flip side of these relatively recent developments has been the creation of a number of legal issues for society at large and the education sector in particular. 

In previous blogs, we have outlined that cyber bullying is the carrying out of conventional bullying but by the use of electronic technologies such as email, SMS, websites, Facebook, online chatrooms, twitter, blogs, snapchat, Instagram and so on.  

One aspect of cyber bullying that has become a real problem in the education sector is that of sexting.  This is the sending of provocative or sexual photos, messages or video, generally by means of a mobile phone.  While sharing suggestive images or text messages may seem like innocent flirting or be considered funny for young people, sexting can have serious social and legal consequences.  

Sexting which involves the distribution of sexual images with minors may constitute the production and/or distribution of child sexual abuse material.  Leaving aside the legal ramifications for sexting, the social ramifications can be even more damaging. Children both in Australia and overseas have been so traumatised by sexting issues that they have committed suicide when photos intended to be viewed exclusively for their boyfriend or girlfriend were distributed to a third party without their consent.  

Some of the social ramifications associated with sexting can include:

  • Damage to a person's reputation.
  • Damage to a person's self-esteem.
  • Sexually explicit photographs being spread to unintended audiences.
  • People involved in issues of sexting becoming depressed and/or embarrassed.
  • Victims losing valuable friendships or relationships with family members and partners.

In some circumstances, sexting has given rise to allegations of breach of duty of care on the part of the school. For example, if a male student takes suggestive photos of a female student in the school grounds and share those photos with other students, in circumstances where the school is aware of that conduct and takes no steps to stop that conduct, the school might be in breach of its duty of care. 

If you would like more information or would like to discuss this topic further please do not hesitate to contact me directly.