Sexting – give kids the knowledge to make informed decisions

Outrage and dismay was proclaimed by right-wing politicians and conservative newspaper columnists when it was revealed that a high school in Victoria had developed guidelines for young people about safety and sexting.

All the usual suspects who proclaim ‘the world’s out of control” and “political correctness has gone mad” lined up, Lyle Shelton, Pauline Hanson, Miranda Devine…”They want to encourage your daughter to send sex photos”, “They’re encouraging child pornography”, “Schools should focus on the three Rs” they chanted.

As someone in their 40s, it sometimes amazes me how sharing nude photos has become near ubiquitous. It’s not unknown for people to pay to have high quality nudes taken by a professional photographer for their Grindr profiles, and sharing a few naked snaps has become as standard a greeting as walking up to someone in a bar and saying “hi” once was.

The Western Australian government has just introduced laws to protect people from revenge porn, a welcome addition that updates the laws with modern technology and society.

So many thoughts struck me listening to people up in arms about the move this one school had taken. Why were they so obsessed with girls sending their photos to boys? This transaction occurs in the opposite direction too, and surely some teenage boys are sending photos to other teenage boys. Are our ideas of sexuality still in Victorian times?

The whole argument against the education initiative was that the message that adolescents should be receiving is ‘Just Don’t Do It’. Like a Nancy Reagan ‘Just Say No’ anti-drug message from the 80’s or a safe sex message from the height of the AIDS pandemic.

There is overwhelming evidence that harm minimisation strategies are the best approach when it comes to the topics of sex, drugs and rock n’ roll.

People make better choices when they have the facts. Good decision making comes from informed choices. Denying essential information to young people is going to cause far more damage than teaching them to weigh up their options.  

Graeme Watson
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This opinion piece appears in the July edition of OUTinPerth. Find it in 300 cafe’s, venues, shops and supermarkets around Perth.