Researchers call for schools to act on dangers of sexting

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Researchers call for schools to act on dangers of sexting

Sexting could have an ‘absolutely devastating’ impact on the emotional wellbeing of learners.

Research by Fife Council educational psychologists, reported in the TES, said schools should warn learners aged 11 and over of the pitfalls of sending explicit messages.

Researchers found that pupils rarely go to teachers for help when problems arise because of sexting – and those who do don't find it helpful.

The research warned that some schools are reluctant to deal with sexting at all because they see it as the parents’ responsibility. But the researchers argued that schools should acknowledge that sexting is widely viewed by teenagers as normal behaviour, and that teachers will lose credibility if they overstate the negatives.

The research, to be published in the coming weeks, is thought to be the most extensive examination of sexting by any Scottish local authority, with more than 800 S1 pupils (ages 12-13) and S3 pupils (ages 14-15) completing online surveys just before the summer.

Almost 40% of S3 pupils had received inappropriate images – defined as naked or nearly naked pictures – and a significant minority of S1 pupils had too (14%).

“There can be a really significant impact on pupils’ emotional wellbeing,” said Fife Council Acting Principal Educational Psychologist Vivienne Sutherland, who added that in a small number of cases the impact could be ‘absolutely devastating’. The effects could include suicidal thoughts, self-harm, low school attendance and disengagement from learning, she said.

Ms Sutherland said that ‘a lot of school staff feel very nervous’ about addressing sexting and there were differing views over who should take responsibility. “Some schools said it was a very serious issue… others were going, ‘It’s really nothing to do with us, it happens outside school, so really parents should be dealing with it,' without realising the impact it was having on their pupils.”

The ASDAN Sex and Relationships Education Short Course covers all aspects of SRE, including challenges on the dangers of sexting, online relationships, pornography, photo and video sharing and cyber-bullying.

Sample challenges are available to download as part of an ASDAN supplement titled Sex and Relationships Education in a digital world.

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