· Introduction to the issue:
There are suggestions that online sexual victimization can be explained as cross-gender cyberbullying while both regarded as abuses of power towards the weaker. While behaviors termed bullying are unacceptable, there is some social tolerance of sexual victimization as “normal” by adolescents and teachers. The victims are often blamed for how they have been maliciously treated (Shute, Owens, and Slee 2008, p.479). Sexting refers to the sharing of the sexual content of individuals on social media. Sexual victimization occurs when these images are being distributed on the internet by the perpetrators without consent (Woodlock 2014, p. 28). Contrasting the Victorian Inquiry, the US National Centre for Missing and Exploited Children states that sexting does not apply where the victim is coerced into these acts. Wolak and Finkelhor (2011), on the other hand, use the word ‘sexting’ for both consensual and non-consensual behaviors. However, they make a distinction between sexting involving abusive elements and sexting intended to please intimate partners. (Henry and Powell, 2015 p. 107).
· Overview of the issue:
Given the evidence of the link between the increasing use of technology and cyberbullying, continued research is crucial (Sakellariou, Carroll, and Houghton 2012, p. 537). In 2012 the National Children’s and Youth Law Centre and Legal Aid NSW conducted a survey on sexting. Around 950 adolescents from the age of 14 to 17 years old participated. Survey respondents were questioned whether they or at least one peer they knew had ever been involved in sexting incidents. The most prevalent sexting incident was being asked for a sexual photo (37.1%), followed by being sent a photo (29.5%), and finally having shared the photo without permission (17.2%). Moreover, the frequency of sexting varied across gender. More girls than boys had been asked or knew someone who had been asked, to share a nude or ‘sexy’ photo (39.3% vs. 27%) (Tallon 2012, p. 13). A number of legal organizations argued that sexting resulting in victimization is not as extensive as researches suggest. They debate that in the majority of cases, sexting is likely to be inoffensive and harmless (Victoria Parliament Committee 2013, p. 36) In most scenarios, an intimate image gets distributed only to the person intended. Victoria Police also state sexting is not a crime and no one has been placed on the Sex Offenders Register for possessing nude pictures of others.
· Associated harms:
Victims of cyberbullying often show symptoms of emotional misery, anxiety, hopelessness, melancholy, anger, and in extreme situations, adolescent suicide. It can negatively impact young people’s friendships and parental relationships. A unique feature of cyberbullying (compared to bullying) is the anonymity of the perpetrator. (Hemphill et al. 2012, p. 60)
Cyberbullying is a multifaced phenomenon and its consequences can be rebounded back to the perpetrators. This usually occurs when perpetrators are socially judged and accused of acting inappropriately. Harms on the perpetrators can include vulnerability to exposure, anxiety, depression, isolation, social phobia, and school avoidance. (Sakellariou, Carroll and Houghton 2012, p. 534).
· Characteristics of Cyberbullies
Researchers have found more males among cyberbullies, while others claim there are no significant gender differences in cyberbullying. In fact, girls, who are bullied less often in real life, seem to participate a lot in cyberbullying. This indirect character of cyberbullying is embedded in ‘female’ forms of bullying (Vandebosch and Van Cleemput 2009, p. 1354)
Cyberbullies are usually detached from the school environment, have no peer support and have bad school grades. According to Li’s analysis (2006), most cyberbullies were youngsters who make more use of the internet. Finally, there exists a connection between being a perpetrator and being a victim, as one-third of traditional bullies and 16.7 percent of the victims of traditional bullying were also cyberbullying. (Li, 2006).
· Risks in tackling Cyberbullying/Sexting at school
Hachiya (2017) suggests that once a teacher becomes aware of an incident, an investigation must launch. An allowable search can locate a mobile phone, but teachers must be aware of the dangers of searching, as it is highly intrusive. Another danger is the inability to identify bullying or harassment related to sexting and the failure to report incidents. This may be a result of their lack of moral and legal obligation to respond. While it is true that sexting may not always intend harm, it is also true that bullying can come in the form of sexting. The potential for creating a hostile environment is very real even when unintended (Hatchiya 2017, p. 180).
· Possible approaches to the issues:
‘Risk factors’ increase the probability of a person developing problematic behaviors. Attending a school with a positive climate and being connected to school are associated with a lower risk of bullying. Family conflict and lack of supervision are also predictors of bullying and antisocial behaviors. It is likely to be important in the context of cyberbullying, given that cyberbullying can occur anywhere at any time. (Hemphill et al. 2012, p. 60)
Initiatives to educate adolescents aged 12-15 years should involve primary, secondary and tertiary prevention strategies. Programs and curriculums are more efficient if specific risk factors are targeted and suitable methods are implemented to address those risk factors operating at all levels, including individual, family, peer, school, and community. (Keel 2005, p. 35). Raising awareness so that it is more readily combatted requires professional development for teachers and parents. Schools may need to control access to mobile telephones during school hours. Parents must also consider their supervisory responsibility to prevent or detect cyberbullying (Sakellariou, Carroll and Houghton 2012, p. 545)
Further examination is crucial about the motivations of perpetrators, the responses of peers who prefer not to engage with the issues, the emotional and other impacts on the victim. While the technology does not produce new criminal or civil offenses, it continues facilitating unconstructive behaviors. A key challenge for law reform efforts then is to protect individuals from being victimized without trespassing the freedom of their sexual expression.
- Cook, H. (2016) ‘School children charged with sexting offenses’, Legaldate, (4), p. 10. Available at: http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=edsihs&AN=edsihs.300529637649105&authtype=sso&custid=deakin&site=eds-live&scope=site (Accessed: 7 January 2020).
- Hachiya, R. F. 1. rhachiya@ksu. ed. (2017) ‘Dangers for Principals and Students When Conducting Investigations of Sexting in Schools’, Clearing House, 90(5/6), pp. 177–183. DOI: 10.1080/00098655.2017.1366796. (Accessed: 8 January 2020).
- Hemphill, S. A. et al. (2012) ‘Longitudinal Predictors of Cyber and Traditional Bullying Perpetration in Australian Secondary School Students’, Journal of Adolescent Health, 51(1), pp. 59–65. DOI: 10.1016/j.jadohealth.2011.11.019. (Accessed: 10 January 2020).
- Henry, N. and Powell, A. (eds) (2015) ‘Beyond the ’sext’ : technology-facilitated sexual violence and harassment against adult women’, Australian and New Zealand Journal of Criminology, 48(1). Available at: http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=edsafs&AN=edsafs.a148323&authtype=sso&custid=deakin&site=eds-live&scope=site (Accessed: 11 January 2020).
- Keel, M. (2005) ‘Working with adolescents in the education system to prevent sexual assault’, Family Matters, (71), p. 36. Available at: http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=f5h&AN=18391475&authtype=sso&custid=deakin&site=eds-live&scope=site (Accessed: 9 January 2020).
- Li, Q. (2006) ‘Cyberbullying in schools: A research of gender differences’, School Psychology International, 27(2), pp. 157–170. DOI: 10.1177/0143034306064547. (Accessed: 8 January 2020).
- Sakellariou, T., Carroll, A. and Houghton, S. (2012) ‘Rates of cyber victimization and bullying among male Australian primary and high school students, School Psychology International, 33(5), pp. 533–549. DOI: 10.1177/0143034311430374. (Accessed: 9 January 2020).
- Shute, R., Owens, L., and Slee, P. (2008) ‘Everyday victimization of adolescent girls by boys: Sexual harassment, bullying or aggression?’, Sex Roles: A Journal of Research, 58(7–8), pp. 477–489. DOI: 10.1007/s11199-007-9363-5. (Accessed: 12 January 2020).
- Tallon, K. (2012) ‘New Voices / New Laws : school-age young people in New South Wales speak out about the criminal laws that apply to their online behavior / Kelly Tallon … [et al.]’. Available at: http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=edsacd&AN=edsacd.293820&authtype=sso&custid=deakin&site=eds-live&scope=site (Accessed: 15 January 2020).
- Vandebosch, H. and Van Cleemput, K. (2009) ‘Cyberbullying among youngsters: Profiles of bullies and victims’, NEW MEDIA & SOCIETY, 11(8), pp. 1349–1371. DOI: 10.1177/1461444809341263. (Accessed: 11 January 2020).
- Victorian Parliamentary Law Reform Committee. (2013). Inquiry into sexting: Report of the Law Reform Committee Inquiry into Sexting. (Parliamentary Paper No.230, Session 2010–2013) Melbourne, VIC: State Government of Victoria, Available at: http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=edsacd&AN=edsacd.293904&authtype=sso&custid=deakin&site=eds-live&scope=site (Accessed: 15 January 2020).
- Woodlock, D. (2014) ‘Sexting without consent’, DVRCV Advocate, (2), p. 28. Available at: http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=edsihs&AN=edsihs.935534037071910&authtype=sso&custid=deakin&site=eds-live&scope=site (Accessed: 11 January 2020).