GNRN? PAW? Mean anything to you? These are acronyms or text language being used to facilitate the teen pastime of 'sexting'; it is currently estimated that at least 39% of teens are doing it. But it's not just all about the language; the sending of sexually suggestive pictures via phones, as we all know, is also a big problem in schools where photos become viral at the touch of a button. Before the sender knows it, the whole school can see them and teachers are left trying to ascertain who’s to blame and whether to involve outside agencies.
As educators, we are obliged to make intricacies of the law such as the possession and usage of images clear for our students. During my time teaching on workshops about this subject I frequently hold a class questionnaire on common scenarios; my observations are that on nearly all counts adolescents do not have a good handle on the law in this area. Knowing the law helps students make informed decisions and can make the difference in their behaviour; you can see ‘lightbulb’ moments when things are clarified and the realisation that something that can start of as ‘a bit of fun’ can actually be a prosecutable offence. A good example of this is when a male Year 10 student took some pictures for fun of another boy whilst getting changed for P.E, he then sent it to the rest of the class, he was completely aghast to know that his actions could be seen as distribution of indecent images of a person under 18.
Cyber bullying is still prevalent, being the medium of choice for many bullies who enjoy the power of being able to subject victims to nasty texts 24/7. I imagine for the victim it feels like a mixture of stalking and bullying, unable to escape the contact and not knowing in some cases who is doing it. It can be a challenge to reach the conscience of young people at times; they are still honing empathy skills and perhaps lack the maturity to see the consequences of their actions. This is where pre-planned lessons can really help; with these plans you can use real life stories as examples of the cause and effect of certain actions. Students can then relate to this, helping them see the ramifications of their behaviour.
Furthermore, sharp increases are being reported by CEOP in paedophiles’ targeting youngsters online to ‘groom’ them as a way of getting them to pass photos and take part in sexual talk through social networking sites. Sex offenders may be finding it easier to gain gratification this way, perhaps with less risk of being caught? Yet another sign of the times is that schools are having to shoulder the responsibility of warning students against such risks.
Complex issues require a head on approach; the E-safety Support assemblies and lesson plans provide an excellent opportunity to get the message across quickly and effectively to a large number of students. Many benefits are also seen in delivering to specific classes and year groups or targeted students identified as being vulnerable, acting as an early intervention strategy. The PowerPoints provided here really make this easy and problem free; the prescriptive nature of the assembly plan means that perhaps less experienced colleagues can gain confidence and feel comfortable giving information on this subject. It also makes the law surrounding this complex subject much clearer, which can only serve to act as a deterrent or at best a second thought before pressing send.
NB: text acronyms from above; GNRN = get naked right now and PAW = parents are watching
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