This post is written by Brandi Watson, Community Outreach Program Coordinator for the Albion Fellows Bacon Center and Candice Perry, Executive Director of the Albion Fellows Bacon Center.
Yesterday we discussed Respect, andwhat some of the consequences are of sharing inappropriate images of yourself via the web or a phone. This discussion was had to hopefully help you realize the seriousness of a decision to take a photograph like this of yourself, but not to leave you feeling stuck if you have already made a decision to do this behavior. Today we are going to talk about what to do if you or a friend or loved one are in this situation and remind you of some reasons to avoid the behavior in the first place.
Why do you think this behavior happens? In some cases, you may be responding to peer pressure in a form of cyber bullying or pressure from a boyfriend or girlfriend. After a break up, photos that seemed private get sent around out of revenge. Sometimes sending these photos is impulsive behavior, flirting, or even blackmail. I have had many teens tell me they were bored and it was something to do, or they were just goofing off with a friend or dating partner and a picture got snapped on a cell phone. Sometimes these pictures are taken without your knowledge. We saw a local example of that in Henderson, Kentucky when several athletes chose to take a locker room picture of one of their teammates. Bottom line…taking pictures like this is always a bad idea.
The desire to talk and gossip about things like this is so very strong. Especially at school when there are people around you all day long. Plus, how many times do we get into disagreements with our friends and choose to do things out of anger that we regret after calming down? Not only is there the emotional (and reputation) damage that can come from having intimate photos of yourself go to a friend who can become an ex-friend, but these photos can be distributed and archived online for people to search for forever.
After the picture is out there it may lead to bullying. This creates a harsh world for a teen to live in. Oftentimes reaching out for help can be embarrassing. You may fear that by telling someone what is going on you will be making it worse, or fear getting into trouble. This can lead to feeling like you’re caught in a trap with no way out. How hard would it be to sit in school knowing that anyone in the room could have looked at this picture of you?
So, what can you do if you find yourself in this situation? What advice can you give a friend who comes to you because they have received one of these photographs on their cell phone?
Common Sense Media define four roles that people can play in a cyberbullying situation. These are:
- target: a person who is the object of an intentional action
- offender: a person who intentionally commits acts to hurt or damage someone
- bystander: a person who passively stands by and observes without getting involved
- upstander: a person who supports and stands up for someone else
Which role would you take? Which role best exemplifies kindness?
Many people want to just delete the image and make it go away, especially after learning about the consequences of having a photo like this. That won’t solve the problem, its taking the role of the bystander and could still land you in trouble. Things we delete from a cell phone or computer don’t go away. The sender of the photo still has a link to your phone showing that you received the photo. If the sender of the photo gets in trouble, the police could come knocking on your door looking for an explanation for what you did with the photo they know you received. It’s worth repeating: Deleting things does not make them go away.
So how can we respond to the situation in a better way? How can we be an "upstander?" These tips from the website www.connectsafely.org represent the most pervasively accepted advice about this situation.
- If a sexting photo arrives on your phone, first, do not send it to anyone else (that could be considered distribution of child pornography). Second: Talk to a parent or trusted adult. Tell them the full story so they know how to support you. And don’t freak out if that adult decides to talk with the parents of others involved – that could be the best way to keep all of you from getting into serious trouble.
- If the picture is from a friend or someone you know, then someone needs to talk to that friend so he or she knows sexting is against the law. You’re actually doing the friend a big favor because of the serious trouble that can come if the police get involved.
- If the photos keep coming, you and a parent might have to speak with your friend’s parents, or the police.
How is responding correctly to someone else's bad choice an act of kindness?
How can avoiding bad choices help us to prevent bullying?
How can you be an "upstander" if you find yourself in a situation of cyberbullying?