What is Sexting and what risks it entails

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The practice of “sexting” has increased in recent years, especially among young people under 18 years of age, both from the point of view of the sender and the receiver of this sexual material.

Let´s discover what is sexting and how to deal with it.

This practice is not exclusive to the very young, but children and adolescents are considered the most vulnerable groups, especially those between the ages of 10-12 years.

What is sexting?

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Its name is an acronym for ‘sex’ and ‘texting’.

Refers to the sending of erotic or sexual content of a personal nature via cell phone through the use of instant messaging or social networks, e-mails or any other type of communication tool available.

The term was first used in 2005 and is something similar to the natural evolution of the exchange of sexual messages, along with the development of the technologies themselves. For example, the possibility of sending voice notes via smartphones.

What is sexting for?

That depends on the individual and what he or she wants to achieve.

Sometimes it will be part of a previous game of seduction and at other times it will be a product of trust between the parties involved. Everything will depend on the context in which such messages are sent and the intentions of each of the participants.

It is usually done in an intimate way between two people, although there is a risk that this content can reach many others if this intimacy is violated, which unfortunately is quite common.

Despite the fact that today it is a fairly common practice to “turn up the heat” after, for example, meeting someone on one of the various dating apps, or to “turn up the heat” with a partner and escape the routine, the danger involved has given it a bad reputation.

Is sexting a crime?

It is not a crime per se, but its misuse.

The problem arises when, after having been in a relationship in which sexting has been practiced, some people decide to resort to sextortion. Sextortion out of spite, to harm the other person or simply because that had been their intention all along.

The misuse of sexting can result in virtual crimes such as: cyberbullying, stalking – spying on or watching someone, especially through social media – and grooming – The practice of deliberately establishing a friendship with a child by an adult – where information and sex education is a particularly important factor.

But digital misuse is not something that affects only children or adolescents, but also affects all ages and the best way to avoid this is to use fewer of these tools and to be more fearful of the consequences of such exposure.

Criminals take advantage of shame and guilt to extort money from the other person and get them to do what the “sextortionist” asks in exchange for not bringing anything to light. It is not advisable to trust them, since their word has no credibility.

Types of sexting

There are two types of sexting: active and passive.

Active sexting consists of sending explicit messages or compromising images. On the other hand, passive sexting consists of receiving photographs, videos or any other content of a sexual nature.

Tips for safe practice

The problem with sexting is that by sending material with sexual content over the Internet, control over its dissemination is lost and it can easily go viral.

If you decide to do so, it is important to be aware of the risks of sexting and take certain precautions:

  • Be of legal age and have full mutual consent to the practice.
  • Do not allow anyone to access your cell phone or computer.
  • Send the images only to a person you trust very much, never to strangers.
  • If you send material of this type, make sure you send it to the contact you want and do not make the mistake of sending it to an unwanted person.
  • Make sure the other person will delete such material once they see it.
  • Install certified antivirus software on your mobile devices or computer and keep them updated to prevent hacking.
  • If you receive a photograph or video of someone you know, let them know if you are unaware that this material is being disseminated. In any case, whether the person is known or not, never disseminate this material.
  • If you receive such material featuring minors, delete it immediately and report it to the authorities. It is possible that the original sender of the content is behind a felony child pornography offense.
  • If you receive such content, never spread it. Remember that you may be harming the right to right to honor and invading that person’s privacy.

Sexting and social networks

Social networks, virtual friendships and changing communication habits This new form of crime, recently introduced into our criminal law, is growing in a worrying way among our youth, due to the irruption of new technologies into our lives in recent years, together with the feeling of impunity provided by the Internet.

In all cases the victim consented to the recording or sending of images of sexual or intimate content, but never to the subsequent dissemination of such content by the recipient.

It should be noted that most social networks have policies against the use of their platforms to disseminate content that may be considered a crime, whether it is cyberbullying, sextortion, grooming, stalking, among others.

Risks of sexting

It is common practice for private photographs or videos to be sent between partners, but should something go wrong in the relationship or the relationship comes to an end and one of the parties wishes to publish the material, the repercussions could be very serious for the other person involved.

Some of the risks associated with this practice are:

  • Extortion: Since it is so easy to disseminate this type of message, it opens the door for people who receive this content in a moment of intimacy to threaten to forward it to others in exchange for money or any other type of coercion.
  • Viralization: Dissemination of this content constitutes a crime and there are known and numerous cases of people whose private messages were publicly disseminated with dramatic consequences.
  • Age: Children and adolescents are the most vulnerable groups because they are often introduced to sex through social networks and build a distorted image of what sexuality entails, taking risks that are not necessary.
  • Impersonation: Social networks allow the identity of others to be impersonated quite easily, which is one of the main risks, as this allows private information to be sent to strangers.

How is sexting legally punishable? What does the Penal Code say?

Article 197.7 of the Penal Code includes this new criminal offense in the following terms:

“Shall be punished by imprisonment for a term of three months to one year or a fine of six to twelve months whoever, without the authorization of the person concerned, disseminates, discloses or transfers to third parties images or audiovisual recordings of that obtained with his consent in a domicile or in any other place out of the reach of the eyes of third parties, when the disclosure seriously undermines the personal privacy of that person”.

As elements of the crime we have:

  • Disseminate, disclose and transfer photos, images or any material of intimate content without the authorization of the person concerned.
  • Such content must seriously affect the personal privacy of the person.
  • These contents have been obtained by the author with the approval of the person concerned.
  • They are contents captured in the victim’s home or in any place where there is an expectation of privacy.

Typical cases of sexting are the forwarding to friends via WhatsApp or other social networks of intimate photographs sent consensually by the perpetrator’s partner, or the dissemination of images of cyber-sexual encounters with the victim via Skype.

What to do and how to act if you are a victim of Sexting

  • Do not panic and inform the relevant authorities: Talk it over with someone you trust to accompany you in the reporting process. Go to the police because cyberbullying cases, especially sextortion, are taken very seriously.
  • Do not agree to blackmail: If you are blackmailed in exchange for money, there is no guarantee that you will not continue to be harassed, that your videos or images will also end up on the network, and that it may also continue to do so with other people.
  • Eliminate any contact with your stalkers: Save all conversations you have previously had with your stalker and end any communication unless the police ask you to continue to maintain contact for the investigation.
  • Stay away from the Internet for a while: Block for a while your online presence, whether on social networks, blogs, subscription pages or any other profile you have enabled, as it gives them the option to continue attacking you.
  • Keep the evidence: Although it may be hard for you, ideally you should have both the conversations and the images or videos for which you are being sextorted. If you also have information about the identity of the criminals, location, network profiles, etc., it can be of great help in solving your case.

It is important to promote parental mediation strategies in the case of children and adolescents and, in the case of adults, to make a correct assessment of the advantages and risks involved in this practice.

How sexting works in relationships

Some experts say that reasons for trying sexting in a relationship could depend on attachment style. There are some different attachments types:

  • Securely attached people find it easy and comfortable to get close to people. They don’t care too much about abandonment.
  • Anxiously attached people frequently care about rejection and could have a desire to completely merge their life with someone else’s.
  • Avoidantly attached people are uncomfortable getting close to people and have a hard time trusting intimate partners.
  • Research shows that people with avoidant or anxious attachment styles may be more likely to get involved in sexting.

If you would like to share your opinion about what is sexting or have any questions, we will be happy to hear from you in the comments.

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