So Facebook is planning an app that allows you to send photos ‘discreetly’, much like Snapchat.

Sexting - it is so much riskier than it sounds…

Naturally! Doesn’t everyone sending a photo to grandma, of their 2 year old playing on the beach this Christmas season, want it to self-destruct in 10 seconds? Quick, get your specs grandma – oops too late.

Predictably, both Snapchat and Facebook deny any inappropriate intent in designing the app. Snapchat’s designer, Evan Spiegel, downplayed the ‘nudes’ phenomenon saying that a few seconds of looking at a picture is unlikely to get anyone going. In fact, he even added in a clever hack to the app,  so that it actually alerts the user when a recipient takes a screenshot of one of their snaps. The very act that such a ‘safety net’ is needed should set our alarm bells ringing. But what safety does it actually provide? If a teen girl sends a nude picture to someone, and then receives an alert of a screenshot, what do Facebook (or Snaphat) think she will do? Tell someone?

Can you picture it? (pun intended)“Uh mum, I just sent a nude pic and …”

Clearly, Facebook thinks we have no clue about technology. Or perhaps they have no idea about the human psyche. The most likely explanation, though - as long as it makes them money, they don’t care.

Even with cyber-bullying well established in public discourse, Social Media rarely acknowledges the link with sexual communication or ‘sexting’.

The term ‘sexting’ now represents a range of activities. These may be motivated by sexual pleasure, but are often coercive, and linked to harassment, bullying, wider sexual pressures to perform, even violence.

Despite the media hype surrounding ‘sexting’ laws and the panic about pedophiles, a qualitative study of young people and ‘sexting’ indicates that the primary technology-related threat is not ‘stranger danger’, but technology-mediated sexual pressure from peers.

And it is a genuine risk - A 2012 study found that ‘Sexting, rather than functioning as an alternative to ‘real world’ sexual risk behavior, appears to be part of a cluster of risky sexual behaviors among adolescents.’

Yet, there is still an opinion that sending ‘nudes’, from behind the safety of a screen, allows young girls to express their sexuality. It apparently keeps a girl safe from groping or rape, because she cannot be physically ‘reached’, while in the privacy of her bedroom. How myopic.

The costs are real and destructive.

Kids Helpline recently stated that, ‘In a three-month period, around 500 counselling sessions were offered to kids who called with sexting-related concerns’.

Given how many girls I have personally counselled, I am not surprised. The inevitable teenage break up inflicts the sudden realization that an ex possesses one’s naked image on his phone. (Hell hath no fury and all that…)

Hence, the once consensual photo leads to a psychological torture, when the sender begins to wonder whether her naked ‘selfie’ is currently parading around the simulated public square. (Ask any teen what she thinks about the possibility of her naked image randomly appearing on the screen, during a mid week school assembly.)

When her image becomes communal, the ensuing sexual bullying and recurrent psychological rape is unquestionable. Other girls brand her a ‘slut’ and blame her for not doing enough to prevent the image from popping up.

Many boys assume her body, like her image, to be public property and do to her as they enjoy or see fit. The resulting trauma is similar to that of a sexual assault survivor, with symptoms including anxiety, depression and self-harming behaviours.

These distraught girls often resort to changing schools, only to find their naked images following them like a dark shadow. And so the inescapable cycle continues.

Of course, in an ideal world naked images, especially not those of minors, would not be forwarded, stored or used without consent. This is not an ideal world.

When will we learn that no app – Not Instagram, not Snapchat, not even the newly awaited Facebook app - can make nonconsensual photo sharing impossible? And there is nothing we can do about it.

Comments on this post will close at 8pm AEDT.

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    • acotrel says:

      05:34am | 21/12/12

      Facebook spells trouble.  Who really wants their private lives, friends and family exposed to all the nutters in this world , so that someone can make a dollar ?

    • TChong says:

      07:05am | 21/12/12

      I reckon the need to tell all, have private life put on display ( voluntarily) is more of the desperate need for some to gain their 15 minutes of fame.
      Many users seem to think that their lives are so wonderful, and inspiring, that others cant be helped but be impressed.
      Too bad the sought after fame often sinks to notoriety, just as quickly, and for far longer

    • Samantha says:

      08:14am | 21/12/12


      I agree that Facebook is pretty up there for being a ‘look at me’ type forum, but living so far away from a lot of family and friends, it does have its upsides.  To me it helps me to feel like I’m still a part of my family / friends’ worlds down south (and vice versa) without physically having to be there.  In the instant messaging sense, they can more or less share the moment with you.

      I admit that people that use Facebook as a venting forum or the like does my head in.  Several inspiring posts do nothing for me, as do several photo shots of people doing stupid things.  And as for those who get themselves into trouble by giving too much information away?  Well, that’s their own fault.

      You might say, what is wrong with good old email or the like?  Well, nothing really.  But it comes down to a convenience thing.  If you work it properly, you shouldn’t have anything to worry about.  Otherwise you are lining yourself up for trouble.

      I wouldn’t say it’s an evil creation, but it does need to be treated with respect in order to get what you want out of it.  After all, Mark Zuckerberg does not really give a toss about our privacy, so long as he is making money off what we post.

    • Elphaba says:

      08:28am | 21/12/12

      Not everyone uses Facebook that way, and everyone who says something of this variation sounds like an old coot.

    • Meph says:

      09:51am | 21/12/12


      Would you pick up a hammer and use it to flip pancakes? How about using a knife as a screwdriver?

      It’s not just about knowing the right job for a particular tool though, it’s about knowing how to use said tool appropriately. You can screw the privacy settings down pretty tight on facebook, to the point where you can’t even be searched for, and all your personal foibles are contained to you and your immediate friends list (and arguably the IT guys at Facebook Central). You can also avoid putting personally sensitive or valuable information up there. By all means put your first and last name, but leave out middle names, dates of birth and phone numbers.

      It comes down to that regrettably rare resource, common sense. If you wouldn’t shout something from a street corner, don’t put it on your myfacetwitbookgram.

    • Cry in my Gin says:

      06:57am | 21/12/12

      The end of the world IS upon us. I agree with acotrel on this one.

    • Fred says:

      08:33am | 21/12/12

      Whatever opinions people have about FB and twitter, the one thing most users do not realise is that the information they freely release about themselves on FB and twitter is public information. That means the never ending source of data available on these 2 platforms is being seriously targetted by all sorts of companies wishing to tap into that information.
      Recruitment companies, banks, telcos, law enforcement, marketers, etc etc etc. For years people have been rightly concerned about keeping their personal info private, but with the advent of FB and twitter this has been thrown out the window on a global scale.

    • ramases says:

      08:35am | 21/12/12

      I cant for the life of me understand this compulsion to put ones whole life on the internet for anyone to see and then complain when either photo’s or text is taken and used against those people. What ever happened to privacy, ones own self preservation or even common sense.
        It all seems like fun and everybody is doing it seems to be the excuse that most people use but what happens in the future when those little thoughts or photo’s pop up and cause not only embarrassment but also a great deal of pain and anguish. Do we blame the media like Facebook or Twitter or the like or do we take responsibility for our own mistakes. Not bloody likely.
        It seems that faced with technology peoples minds go to mush and they put out in cyber space things that they would normally tell anyone and why, for 15 mins of fame as someone suggested or just because the sheep mentality is so pervasive.
        The technology revolution has lead to the dumbing down of humanity and the more that technology advances the dumber people become.

    • Angus says:

      08:52am | 21/12/12

      More needs to be done to educate boys and men about not sending these photos on and redistributing etc. Everyone blames the female for letting the photo get out there but no one thinks about the idiot that passed it on in the first place.

    • Blind Freddy says:

      09:47am | 21/12/12

      “Everyone blames the female for letting the photo get out there but no one thinks about the idiot that passed it on in the first place.”

      Ah, that WOULD be the “female” would it not?

    • Al says:

      09:49am | 21/12/12

      Angus - whilst both need to take some responsibility, the primary responsibility lies with the person who distributed it in the first place, particularly if their is no specific agreement stating that the recipient must not redistribute the photo without the express permission of the original sender.

    • ramases says:

      10:02am | 21/12/12

      Soory Angus but cant agree. If the woman or girl allowed the photo’s to be posted in the first place its her responsibility. If some lowlife passes it on because of either a break-up or just because he is a low life shouldn’t enter into the equation. To post pictures of oneself in a compromising or lewd pose invites trouble but as I have said technology turns some peoples brains to mush.

    • Meph says:

      11:00am | 21/12/12


      ” the idiot that passed it on in the first place”

      This is an indication that perhaps the girl needs to be a little more discerning with her choice of partner before showing him everything she has.
      Mind you, I don’t blame the girl, I blame her parents for not properly educating her about the kinds of assholes, douche nozzles and oxygen thieves out there.

    • Tubesteak says:

      11:51am | 21/12/12

      Agree with meph

      If you run with wolves then expect to be eaten because you’re really their prey

    • ramases says:

      01:57pm | 21/12/12

      Unfortunately Meph parents have abrogated their authority to the schools, Government or grandparents as they both work usually and by the time that the family finally gets together its video games, TV or computers that people react with, not one on one personal interaction and this seems to suit all involved. Parents have a role to play in this whole saga but unfortunately those same parents are doing exactly what the children are doing themselves as this is the brave new world that they are building.
      People will always find a way of exploiting those stupid enough to allow themselves to be exploited and this current fascination with sexting and photos is just another example of stupidity.
        There used to be an old saying that has virtually gone out of use but could be updated just for this kind of thing, ” Put mind in gear before opening technology”.

    • Nicole says:

      01:58pm | 21/12/12

      Exactly, Angus.

      The rest of you, way to victim-blame. The pressure on girls and women to conform in a sex-saturated digital culture is enormous. Did you all miss the bit in the article where the author states that sexts and naked selfies are ‘often coercive’? Girls send these pictures because they trust or have been tricked into trusting the recipient (trust being even more of a problem using an app like Snapchat, which seems ‘safer’). And when some creep, ex or so-called friend betrays her trust, everyone shames the girl. So yeah, let’s teach girls not to send naked selfies, but can we stop turning a blind eye to the voyeuristic and predatory behaviour of the people who circulate them?

    • Markus says:

      02:44pm | 21/12/12

      @Nicole, there are already laws in place surrounding the distribution of images without consent. Any girl whose trust has been breached is free to pursue these legal avenues.
      At that age in particular, she could even have the perpetrator up on child porn charges (though runs the risk of incriminating herself at the same time).

      But if the biggest fear of young girls is for a nude image of them to be made public as the article states, the only guaranteed method of preventing such a scenario is to ensure that no such images exist.

    • Sundress In Sydney says:

      09:19am | 21/12/12

      I think FB is a useful tool for keeping in touch.  Just a little common sense is needed.  My FB account has the incorrect birthday, incorrect geographic area, no public contact details and is to a Yahoo account specifically set up for FB.  It is not paranoia.  All of my friends I have invited and I have maximum security settings.  I just like to keep my private details mine.  Search for me on FB and you won’t find me.  I also don’t post pics that can be tagged and then go anywhere.  I am happy to email my photos.  A little common sense and balance and it is easy to enjoy using it with privacy intact.

    • David Hannum says:

      02:07pm | 21/12/12

      There’s a sucker born every minute.

    • father of 3 says:

      09:39am | 21/12/12

      these short life photo apps are the condoms of the sexting world. yep they can break, and in the end all it does is provide an illusory safety net that makes access to uncouth actions all the more accessable.

    • Grey says:

      10:12am | 21/12/12

      The world is full of risk.  Surely the existence of a photo of yourself naked must rank in the lower order of terrible things that can happen to a person?

    • gobsmack says:

      10:54am | 21/12/12

      I’m working on a new site called Genitalbook for the lower end of the market.

    • Tubesteak says:

      03:06pm | 21/12/12

      When will it be up?

    • Bruno says:

      11:10am | 21/12/12

      It is repulsive that someone would take advantage of what was a private thing. If any good comes from it it will be the lesson to not be so naive. Another example of how society has failed our daughters and sisters. Growing up on magazines and how life is like that rubbish they see on tv. Lucky for you we do not live in an ideal world or there would be no counsellors. My daughter will learn the same lessons as my sons. You have to take responsibility for your actions, don’t be naive, don’t be stupid. The world is not made of rainbows and marshmallows. Is any of this in your counselling sessions or are they made of entirely of its not your fault darling. This issue is not rape after all. Pessimism has worked for me and it is what I will pass on.

    • meh says:

      01:25pm | 21/12/12

      “Many boys assume her body, like her image, to be public property and do to her as they enjoy or see fit. ” So boys treat girls as public property. Given the obvious ramifications this has for sexual assault rates, shouldn’t we be educating boys on sexual violence and consent rather than slut shaming girls? Also why do we equate female nudity with a lack of morals anyway- this is an incredibly retrograde view which tends to come from Christian dogma. Such dogma actually TEACHES boys to think of any girl who bares her flesh as immoral and therefore deserving of any abuse. Sexting would not be such a big deal if Christianity hadn’t taught us all to equate nudity with shame and guilt. Many other cultures around the world have no problem with public nudity including mixed public nudity (bath houses etc). In Australia we are still super conservative (and super into slut shaming) and that’s why sexting is such a big deal. Articles like this dont help much.

    • Jeri says:

      02:45pm | 21/12/12

      Something to keep in mind is that we are not generally talking about grown men and women sexting, but teenagers and young people who may not have the same emotional maturity levels to assess risks and make the best decisions. As the author pointed out, sexting often involves coercion or pressure. Combine that with teen girls wanting to feel sexy and desirable, and we have a problem.

    • Philosopher says:

      03:06pm | 21/12/12

      Could everyone please just cease to photograph every damn thing. Whether it’s an over-priced lunch, their dribble-lipped toddler, a random building, their underage girlfriend’s breasts or their own penis, Just. Stop. Taking. Pictures. And. Enjoy. The. Moment.

    • Bart says:

      03:52pm | 21/12/12

      Don’t forget the photo does not just instantly go to the other persons phone. It has to pass through a myriad of servers and connections along the way. Gawd knows where it’s cached or copied.


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