Sexting is mentioned a lot in the new KCSiE. It is something that schools have been covering in their #PSHE lessons for some time but the topic can be challenging to educate pupils in. The main reason is that pupils have a very different view on what teachers are talking about.
In the KCSiE and the extra document ” Sexting in schools and Colleges:responding to incidents and safeguarding young people” there are some very clear guidelines, many of which DSL all over the country will be delivering inset about on Monday.
Making, possessing and distributing any imagery of someone under 18 which is ‘indecent’ is illegal. This includes imagery of yourself if you are under 18.Any imagery containing sexual activity by under 13s should be referred to the police.
To staff this is a very clear statement but to pupils this doesn’t seem to relate to what they are actually doing online. They see this as something to stop the bad people, the weirdos. That this law isn’t for them. For example, if you look at many of the 15 / 16 pupils profile pictures, I would consider some of the images, indecent.
Indecent images may also include overtly sexual images of young people in their underwear.
They see it as copying their idols, harmless fun or even flirting. You only have to watch MTV for a few songs to see the images that they are bombarded with, both male and females. I have added a picture that my 9 year old daughter found last week. It is of Actress Ariana Grande who is a singer but is also on Nickelodeon television. All right she is 23, so is entitled to act as she pleases, but I would suggest she looks younger and her pose could only be considered sexual.
The flirting aspect of it, takes some time to get your head round. Obviously schools have dealt with cases where pupils regret sending the image and these follow the schools safeguarding procedure but then schools have also dealt with many cases where both genders state it’s just normal behaviour. That neither party coaxed the other and that its ok to say no, there is no stigma attached. In fact the only golden rule seems to be, never show your friends. So now sexting isn’t just about safeguarding it is also about pupils self worth and why they feel the need to “flash some skin” to get a boyfriend / girlfriend?
So how can we educate the pupils?
Make it relatable: We have found that teaching students to be aware of their digital footprint seems to be the only way some students will actually think before they post / send. If there is a possibility it might affect their university/ job offer seems an effective and relatable issue to them. If we explain worse case situations of grooming or paedophile rings, they never seem to believe us and switch off.
Get older pupils to talk it through with them: Our pupils are our best assets. Pupils don’t seem to believe the teachers, what do we know? but our mentors are excellent. The older students if trained properly offer support and are excellent role models. Likewise with outside speakers.
Drip feed the info: Don’t just cover sexting or health relationships once for 10 mins as part of the PSHE scheme of work. Introduce it within other topics in yr7, maybe within Health relationships. And then come back to it in yr9 and again in the 6th form. Let Tutors and Parents know the topics that are covered in PSHE and give them links to websites so they can discuss it with the pupils. Invite parents in to hear the guest speakers, educating them.
Make sure they are aware of the law: Many pupils are unaware that they are breaking the law and that this could have repercussions on future employment.
Train staff on dealing with sexting: Many staff feel out of touch with technology and wouldn’t know how to help or how to protect themselves. For example one teacher received an email from a parent which images of their daughter and that teacher then emailed it onto the DSL. In the eyes of the law this is illegal.
Support pupils when they disclose info: Train all staff who offer support, including the nursing team, so that when a child does tell you something, they wont be judged or punished.
Promote self worth: Look at positive role models for both genders, celebrate everyone’s differences and praising each other. This should be a whole school ethos, covered in assemblies and news letters.
And we need to keep talking about, this isn’t going to go away. We need to safeguard and protect our students and KCSiE has made it very clear that schools need to take the lead.