#teensexting | #sexting | Airdrie RCMP educating teens and parents on the legal implications of sexting – DiscoverAirdrie.com


The term was coined in 2005. Sexting, as defined by Merriam Webster is the sending of sexually explicit messages or images by cell phone. 

 

A quarter of Canadian youth (Grades 7-11) have either sent or received a sext. Sexting has also become a focal point of the school presentations the Airdrie RCMP present, especially in middle schools and high schools.  

 

Airdrie RCMP Constable Gabrielle Spencer who is a school liaison officer said that part of the reason the RCMP are going into schools and engaging youth on the topic is to shed light on the legal consequences of sexting.  

 

“When you post something online, or when you send a picture, you can never guarantee if it’s being duplicated [or not],” said Constable Spencer. “That is always an unknown. When you are taking those pictures, even though you are agreeing to them and if you are under the age of 18, you are inadvertently creating child pornography, which is something that is in the Criminal Code and that the police take very seriously. Once the pictures are taken and then sent to someone, they are transmitting child pornography.” 

 

According to the Criminal Code of Canada, child pornography means, “a photographic, film, video or other visual representation, whether or not it was made by electronic or mechanical means, that shows a person who is or is depicted as being under the age of eighteen years and is engaged in or is depicted as engaged in explicit sexual activity…” 

 

 “What we want the youth to know is that we do understand that kids their age are going to be experimenting with their sexuality and that’s a normal process in life,” she said.  “But we want to be able to teach them how to do that safely and make them understand that there are legal repercussions and consequences when doing that.” 

 

Sergeant Randy Poon with the Southern Alberta ICE said that most teenagers and youth who engage in sexting are not fully aware of the implications. 

 

 “I don’t believe that most kids understand that aspect [legalities],” he said. “I find that most kids are not thinking about the future impact of what they’re doing, especially if they’re sending out nude images of themselves or sexual images of themselves over the internet. I don’t think they understand the legality [of it] that can happen with regards to if charges are laid and convictions are there.” 

 

According to Statistics Canada, between 2016 and 2017, “On average, children and youth aged five to 17 had three hours of screen time per day”.  

 

Constable Spencer said that while it can be overwhelming for parents, a generation who never had this kind of access to phones, it is still important for parents to engage their kids in the discussion. 

 

 “If kids don’t know something nowadays, they will most likely not ask their parents, they will go and search on the internet because the internet is so available,” she said. “I would say open dialogue between parents and their child is essential to having those hard discussions. Yes, it is sometimes uncomfortable. Although, if you’re not talking about it with your child, they will go search that information online and learn that way.” 

 

 According to MediaSmarts, a Canadian not-for-profit charitable organization for digital and media literacy, parents should approach the topic of sexting with their kids by talking to both boys and girls about it.  

 

“Talk about how uncommon this kind of behaviour is: Youth may be motivated to engage in sexting if they believe “everybody is doing it”, so it is important for them to understand how rare these activities really are.” 

 

While Spencer and Poon understand that sexting is out there and while not engaging in it would be the best way to avoid future consequences, Spencer said she has her own litmus test. 

 

“If you’re not willing to show it to a relative, a parent or a grandparent, maybe that’s a sign that you shouldn’t be posting or sending that picture,” she said. “If you ask someone, would you show your grandma and they say ‘no’, then that’s always a good indicator that you probably shouldn’t post it.” 

 



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