© Laura Hines
RCMP officers and school officials are hoping to stress the consequences of being caught sexting.
No matter how young the hands holding it may be, a mobile phone comes with great responsibility in the age of social media.
The rise in popularity of social media comes with pros and cons within the school system.
Social media is a medium through which people can share information, stay connected and find knowledge. However, if misused, it can quickly become an avenue through which students wind up getting in trouble — deep trouble.
Everett MacPherson, supervisor of school support services for the Annapolis Valley Regional School Board (AVRSB), says cyber bullying and sexting are two major challenges educators across the province are dealing with in their schools.
Sexting occurs when a sexually explicit image or video is transmitted using a mobile phone.
MacPherson would not speak about specific incidents within a particular school, but he did indicate that sexting and cyber bullying are across-the-board issues within the AVRSB.
“Does sexting, does cyber bullying happen? Of course it does. It happens in our system and when it does happen we certainly deal with it,” said MacPherson.
MacPherson says the AVRSB staff work with school safety officers from the RCMP to teach students about the dangers of sexting.
“It can be distribution of child pornography and that’s the criminal side that the RCMP will talk about,” he said.
MacPherson says they attempt to deter students from engaging in sexting by teaching them the principles of good digital citizenship.
“We really want to educate and inform students as to why it is inappropriate and help them with their self esteem issues and try and get to the basis of why a student would do that type of thing,” he said.
MacPherson says sexting is often the result of self-esteem issues, peer pressure or sheer ignorance, and the consequences of each case are determined on an individual basis.
“Students are not being monitored by an adult all the time on social media so they will make mistakes,” he added.
Const. Tara Davis,the school resources officer for the Windsor District RCMP, says the Youth Criminal Justice Act requires that police consider taking alternative actions, such as issuing warnings, before laying a charge in a sexting investigation.
“Sexting becomes a criminal offence when the image depicted is one of an unlawful sexual act or the subject of the image is a child,” explained Davis.
She stressed that sending a sext can result in stiff consequences.
“The criminal charges that are typically considered in a sexting complaint are production, possession and/or distribution of child pornography. If a third party forwards a sext, they may be investigated for possession and distribution of child pornography.”
The Child Pornography Reporting Act established in 2008 states that anyone who is aware of material they believe to be child pornography must report it.
Davis says the RCMP team up with Schools Plus workers and school counsellors to teach students the hard facts about sexting and cyber bullying.
“There has been a big emphasis put on the role of the bystander and how much power they have to stop bullying,” she said.