In a bid to influence policy and inform recent public debate, and hard on the heels of arrests relating to sexting incidents in Victoria, researchers at the University of Sydney’s Institute of Criminology are asking Australian teenagers to share their views on sexting.
Their online survey is seeking the real story behind sexting as young people face the risk of being prosecuted for serious offences. It asks teenagers to anonymously provide details of their social networking habits, share their perceptions of sexting and outline their own experiences.
“Current law doesn’t have the nuance to cater for the transmission of sexual images between willing parties via new technologies,” says Associate Professor Murray Lee, who is leading the Sexting and Young People project.
“Many consider it extreme to label a teenager who sexts a friend a child pornographer under the Crimes Act. At the same time we have to ensure any changes to the law don’t compromise the welfare of young people when they are still very vulnerable sexually.”Although definitions vary across Australia, making, sending or possessing images of a child in a sexual pose or of a child’s private parts can amount to child pornography in all jurisdictions. Associate Professor Lee says more informed research needs to be done on how and why teenagers sext before any tweaks are made to the law.
The survey is a key part of Sexting and Young People, funded by the Australian Institute of Criminology. The Institute will publish findings from the survey, which will also help Dr Lee and his team understand the sexting practices and perceptions of young Australians.
The researchers are also looking at broader community perceptions and analysing current laws that apply to sexting.
“We encourage Australians aged 13 to 18 to fill in the online survey and have their say on the topic,” says Associate Professor Lee.
The survey can be found at www.surveymonkey.com/s/SICSX and will be live until the end of September.
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