Sexting: A Proposal to Assist those
who are Cyberbullied via Sexts
Sheri Bauman, Ph.D.
University of Arizona
Presentation at the International Bullying Prevention Association
Annual Conference
November 17, 2014
San Diego, CA
Sexting
• The practice of transmitting sexual content via
digital technology, including images, video,
and text
• Sexts become cyberbullying when they are
sent or posted without permission and cause
humiliation and embarrassment to the target
Legal Issues
• Cyberbullying is not illegal, but sexting can be
prosecuted under existing laws.
• In some states, creation, possession, or distribution of
explicit images of a juvenile can be charged with such
crimes as sexual exploitation of a minor.
• Federal laws prohibit the use of a computer to “ship,
transport, receive, distribute, or reproduce for
distribution a depicting of a minor actually engaging
in sexually explicit conduct,” or anything that is
classified as child pornography.
• When state law considers sexting to be child
pornography, the offense is usually a felony and
conviction requires registration as a sex offender.
Prevalence
• Wolak & Finkelhor, 2011:
– 4% of national sample (age 12- 17) had created
and sent sexual images
• Mitchell, Finkelhor, Jones, & Wolak, 2012:
– Surveyed 1560 Internet users age 10 – 17
2.4% had created nude or almost nude images, but only
1% were sexually explicit
7.1% had received nude or nearly nude images
5.9% had received sexually explicit images
• Pew Internet and American Life survey
– 4% of teens with cell phone sent sexually
suggestive images to someone
– 15% had received such messages
• Temple et al., 2012
– High school students in Texas were sampled
• 28% sent naked photo to someone
• 31% asked for a naked photo from someone
• 57% had received requests to sent a sext and were
bothered by the request
Types of Sexting
• Aggravated:
– Adult involvement, illegal or abusive behavior by
minors, malicious use of images following
conflicts, or using images without knowledge of
subject or despite objections of the subject.
• Experimental
– Emerge from exploration of sexuality
– Efforts to flirt, attract romantic partners,
experiment with sexual activity, or to gain
attention
Prevention & Intervention
• Internet Safety Education (ISE) examined existing
program to teach kids how to avoid being
victimized
– Existing approaches did not contain all the
components of effective prevention education
• Developmental factors
– Tend to believe they are invulnerable
– Frontal cortex not completely developed
– Imaginary audience phenomenon exacerbates the
problem
• The photo-sharing app Snapchat offers a false sense
of privacy by promising it will erase photos.
• This collection, which might be published this
weekend, is likely to include child pornography.
Snapchat is popular as a tool for sending nude
images. And half of its users are teenagers between
the ages of 13 and 17.
• "Everyone who sends a message using Snapchat's
service could be at risk," said Patrick Wardle,
research director at security firm Synack.
Psychological Consequences
• Those to have been victimized via sexting are
likely to exhibit symptoms of disorders for
which evidence-based treatment is available:
– Depression
– Anxiety
– PTSD
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
• Used to treat depression in adolescents
• Effective with suicidal adolescents
• Effective for anxiety disorders in children and
adolescents
• Focus on the cognitive triad
• Dispute cognitive distortions
Initial assessment
• Assess for suicidality. In addition to standard
questions, ask “What could happen to push
you to the point of wanting to end your life?”
• Use established measures (e.g., Beck Youth
Inventory) to assess depression, anxiety,
anger, disruptive behavior, and self-concept
Using CBT: Considerations
• Adult helper must understand the problem and
technology
– Minimizing can exacerbate the problem
– Lack of understanding tells the youth that you don’t
get it
• Self-monitoring of mood and other symptoms
should be introduced
• Cognitive restructuring is basic and very
challenging
– Everyone has seen the photo
– Even if the photo is taken down, it could re-appear
and ruin my chances for college, job, etc.
Disputing Distortions
•
•
•
•
Everyone thinks I’m a whore
Everyone knows what I did
This will haunt me forever
Everyone has seen the picture
Behavioral Interventions
• Design strategy to reduce re-visiting offending
sites, images, etc.
• Relaxation and systematic desensitization for
reducing anxiety
• Include family to assist in monitoring mood,
school attendance, and primarily to enlist support
for the teen
• Identify sources of social support in and out of
school
• Frequent follow-ups
Brainstorming actions
• Possibilities:
– Contact police
– Change schools
– Close social media accounts
– Change phone numbers
– Join anti-bullying groups
Possible strategies
•
•
•
•
Contact website and request removal of material
Report to authorities
Consider legal action
Generate positive content (google-bomb) to
balance the negative
• Develop an essay to present to college
admissions or employer
• Hire reputation manager (e.g., reputation.com)
Offenders
Thank you for your attention!
[email protected]
Bauman, S. (in press). Cyberbullying and sexting:
School mental health concerns. In R. Witte & S.
Mosley-Howard, Mental health practice in
today’s schools: Current issues and
interventions. NY: Springer.
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Sexting - International Bullying Prevention Association