#makeITsafePH: Our Youth are Sexting, What seasoned online influencers say to avoid online indignity


The ubiquity of technology in our present time and space has yielded unprecedented and enormous advancements that have become a boon and a bane to many of us, especially our youth. Technology brought us ultra smart phones and developed internet platforms where information became so fluid that when shared can reach millions of people around the world in a split of a second.

In “Digital in 2018” report released by Hootsuite, a US-based social media management platform, it’s startling to note that Philippines has now 67 million internet users and all of these are active social media users. This pervasive use of internet has paved the way for the emergence of internet-related crimes such as rape, theft, bullying, coercion through sexting and piracy which made public private information whose victims are often our teens, our youth who are digitally vulnerable.

Because of this, Globe Telecom, a purveyor of digital lifestyle in the country, has come up with an online campaign called #makeITsafePH. This drive aims to encompass cybersecurity and cyberwellness to educate its consumers about online threats, especially relating to sexting and sharing of intimate or scandalous photos and videos online. It also aims to share what our teens can do to avoid becoming a victim. This campaign also teaches the public proper online etiquette so that they would not become a source of such deplorable behavior as well.

On this article, we will talk about why our teens do explicit sexting, the dangers, the prevalence of the incidence and what our seasoned online influencers have say to avoid becoming a victim.

So Why Do Teens Send Sext?

In an online article published by Reuters, it revealed that “sexting can be a healthy way for young people to explore sexuality and intimacy when it’s consensual. The trouble is that when it’s coerced, or when sexts are shared without permission, it can feel a lot like cyberbullying, and with many of the same is dangerous because it can have mental health consequences.”

Some use sexting as a form of flirting and as an incentive to start a relationship. Some say, it’s done with mutual interest between exclusive romantic partners. In some cases, they’re compelled to response for fear of threats from someone they’re involved with. Some say, its peer pressure.

In a survey I made online among 15 teens who have just graduated from Senior High School, 9 of which were male and 6 were female. It’s surprising to know that all of them have sent sext to their romantic partners and love interests. I’m relieved to know though that all of them observed restraint and know well-enough their limitations on what and not to share online.

While these kids know their responsibilities and have practiced control in terms of sharing explicit information online, it’s disheartening to know that there are still many out there who are still in the verge of would-be victim of online harassment through blackmails,  threats, coercion, manipulation of information through sexting.

Let’s Know the Dangers of Sexting

Beyond Our Control

The boon side of internet offers an enormous avenue to sharing information like a bomb. Once you send lewd information like sexts, photos or videos and it explode in the internet you cannot be sure where its shrapnels may end up anymore. It can quickly spiral out and go viral beyond our control. And while covering digital tracks may be doable, at the end of the day we still have to deal with the mission of impossibility.

And for victims, thinking about these unrecovered/undeleted sexts, photos and videos can cause sense of despair. This may eventually lead to feelings of anxiety, depression, self-harm, withdrawal and in worst cases – suicide.

Gender Bias and Sexism

While we continually advance the idea of gender equality in all aspect of our society, we still can’t deny the notion that gender bias and sexism is still pervasive in many levels of our culture, especially in schools and workplace.

This normalized sexism manifests in our socio-cultural instinct of giving harsher consequences to girls more than boys. Both maybe given equal punishment but the social stigma of putting more pressure on girls still pervade and cloud the psyche of the many of us.

Vulnerability to Blackmail

Sexting blackmails can come in many forms. The most common one may come from romantic relationships gone awry. In most cases, boys usually demand sexual advances otherwise they’ll let the cat out of the bag. Although it comes rarely, but in some cases boys can also be victims of sexting blackmails.

Some offenders can be other people without even sexual interest in the victim. They just want to manipulate them, use fear, threaten them and extort money for their advances. Some can even be friends whom the victim displeased in the process. They’ll use private conversations and explicit images against the victim for vengeance.

The downside of this criminality is so profound that according to Psychologytoday.com, it can cause mental illness, emotional trauma and psychological damage to the victim.

Aspect of legality

When done privately and conscientiously, the act of sexting and sharing explicit photos and videos online is considered valid and not illegal.

However, once the explicit photos and videos are shared online and/or publicly without the consent of the person appearing in such photos and videos, the act becomes illegal. The person responsible for the online distribution or reproduction of the incriminating content shall be criminally and civilly liable.  Moreover, the fact that the person poses blackmails, gives out threats, or coerces and manipulates the victim shall constitute a prima facie violation of the law*.

Notwithstanding the age of the victim, whether a minor or of legal age, the act of producing, sharing, distributing and using the victim’s sexual imagery, videos, sexts and other related matters is considered a crime.

*In the Philippines, victims are protected with the following laws; Republic Act (RA) No. 10175 or the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012, Republic Act (RA) No. 7610 or the Special Protection of Children Against Abuse, Exploitation and Discrimination Act of 1992, Republic Act (RA) No. 9995 or The Anti-Photo and Video Voyeurism Act of 2009 and Republic Act (RA) No. 9775 or the Anti-Child Pornography Act of 2009.

Your Pictures Can End Up In Offensive Sites.

The internet is notorious for having no do overs. Once you hit send, it cannot be unsent anymore. As we have discussed earlier it can end up to who knows where – worst case scenario, offensive or porn sites. So much has been said about ‘think before you click’. We say it again, think before you send.

You may not wary about its consequences at the moment you send it. But the senseless thing about the ubiquity of technology is that - your digital past will always haunt you somewhere down this exponential digital road. Images, videos, texts you sent long time ago may miraculously resurface years later. And this may affect your life chances especially seeking job opportunities, relationships or family matters later in life. So again, think before you click.

So what can we do to avoid being victim of sexting scandal online?

From a parent's perspective and as a mother of social media active teens, here are few of my suggestions;

  1. In a nation where sex is not openly discussed in school and moreso by parents, educating our children about sex is kind of a struggle to do. So start from sighting or talking about scandals that happened  online. This way they can relate. Then operate on ‘what if’ method. Then talk about possible repercussions. It works for us all the time. 
  2. Always assume that your child will pass on an explicit photo/video or take one of themselves and possibly share it. Then discuss the dangers of sexting including how they would feel if their photos were shared online.
  3. Talk about their digital footprint and what it means. How internet can replicate their photos/videos even if it has long been deleted.
  4. Befriend your children in social media. If you’re not friends, befriend his or her friend that way you’ll still know their activities online. (Some kids, like mine don’t like their parents to comment and like their stuff online, so I just lurk and on the look-out)
  5. Make sure that they know where they can get help and talk to if needed. Sometimes, they may not want that to be their parents, so ensure they have a safe person to confide in.
  6. Get them involve with other physical activities that limits their contact with gadgets. I do slight martial law all the time, lol. But hey, that’s exactly the reason why I’m a parent.

As an added information for our teens' digital citizenship responsibilities, I have solicited few of the seasoned online influencers’ guidance on how our youth/teens of today can avoid sexting scandals;

“The best advice that I could give to the younger generation in terms of using social media is to use it intentionally and with utmost caution. Intentionally in the sense that it should be used for the good and welfare not only of one's self, but of others, and with utmost caution considering that what you bring out to the world can be detrimental to you and/or to others. Not everything you see in social media can be true, because reality can sometimes be better or worse than what is depicted on our timelines. Also, nothing is worth having than friendships built and maintained outside the digital core, so it's important, healthier and more beneficial to establish relationships and connections beyond the screen.” – Chamee Pecson, http://www.misslitratista.com/

“Don’t share sensitive photos and messages to friends even on private messaging apps. Everything can be screenshot these days. Better call.” - Avel Manansala, https://www.facebook.com/avelmanansala

“Seriously, there must be a constant reminder to the teens to always think before they post anything on social media. To be aware of the possible repercussions, whether good or bad, that it will do to him, the audience or the personalities involved in the content.  If we take it further back, you have to be always responsible with what you save in your phone. It all starts from there. Are the files you're saving beneficial to you and to other people, or will it cause conflict if you post it online?”  - Ian Ray Garcia, https://www.facebook.com/ianraygarcia

“This digital era has become increasingly challenging, even difficult, for parents, guardians, or concerned adults like me, to promote responsible use of social media. Social media, while a powerful tool when used right, also has the disadvantage of being a platform for bullying, fake news, and online crimes. Therefore, all users must take extra precaution when using social media. REGULATE what you post. KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE. If it's one you trust, like a close group of family and friends, then by all means post to your heart's desire. But that is hardly the case. Unwanted people who might have malicious intent might just be lurking. So again, THINK BEFORE YOU CLICK. Avoid posting as much personal information and intimate activities of your life. And if you have friends/family who you think are exposing themselves to possible harm/self-damage online such as sexting, be their REMINDER and GUIDE them.” - Emjay Llerena, http://www.everydayemjay.me/

“For starters, do not share everything on the web, especially your personal information...know how to limit people having access to your profile. Educate yourself with the technology by reading reviews of app you use, and be aware of how people get information from you like phishing, use of cookies, spam, etc. ---the less we give people, companies and apps (or technology in general) to our personal information, the more we can protect ourselves.” - Sarah Dayrit, http://www.davaofoodtographer.com/ 

"Always be aware of limitations in communications, in whatever forms. There will be no scandal if you will not give in to the exploiters. If you agreed to send explicit photos or videos during your exchanges, think that everything shared can be saved in so many ways. Thus, there is already a possibility that it will be leaked. It may not be today but it will.You are accountable with every information that you share. Be skeptic. When you can sense that the other party's conversation with you is leading to that, don't trust easily, be it on strangers or even on people who is close. Rather, trust your instincts if you feel that there is something wrong. Most importantly, don't allow yourself to be exploited. Acknowledge your worth." - Rob Gumba, https://bobtrailtales.wordpress.com/

“As someone who studies communication, I find that it's best to put a lot of care and thought into the messages that we send. Take note of the nuances in the communication process and how media (platforms) affect your intended messages. I echo my mentor's words on social media use: The best way to handle social media is to treat it as it were interaction in real life - always.” - Jesse Boga, https://writingdetours.wordpress.com/

In conclusion, I am happy that among the teens I’ve asked about sexting, they all observed restrain and show accountability in terms of sharing explicit texts, photos and videos online. Some might still be on the sludge but I’m hoping that through this blogpost I’ve shared something to ponder upon.

To all our adults and the seasoned influencers let us also be wary about the things we say and share online. Our children, the younger generation are the reflection of the kind of society that we have. Hence it is important to share the responsibility in educating our youth on the dangers associated with this criminality, especially online.

To the parents, let’s reach out to our children and initiate an environment that allows them to let us into their lives.

Thank you for taking time to read! Let's #makeITsafePH.

Share and read stories on how to safeguard our identities online, use the hashtag #makeITsafePH and follow same conversation.

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