A sexually explicit image sent to a boy then shared was the beginning of a complex and lengthy police investigation that started in October 2013, states a Terrace RCMP press release.
This led to ten boys between the ages of 12 to 16 being identified as involved in some aspect of having sent and/or received sexually explicit images of minor girls and cyberbullying, the release continued.
“It is clear that there needs to be a solidified community approach to stop the sexual exploitation of youth by youth. This has to be led by parents working with teachers, school administration, coaches, and police to hold youth accountable for their behavior and in prevention and education strategies,” says Terrace RCMP Constable Angela Rabut.
Police worked closely with the parents of the boys and girls to hold the youth accountable for their actions.
Most of the boys were referred to the Terrace Community Justice Forum Group in which some of their victims and families also took part.
“The Youth Criminal Justice Act directs police to consider options to hold youth accountable in ways other than court. Willingness to take part in a forum and accepting full responsibility for your actions are the key components of a forum. This forum brought accountability and closure for those involved,” says Cst Angela Rabut, Community Policing/Media Relations Terrace RCMP.
Police also formed partnerships with School District 82, School Administration of Skeena Middle School and Caledonia School, the Terrace Minor Hockey Association, Ksan Society, Police Victim Services, and Youth and Child Mental Health Services as part of this investigation. Each organization had a key role to play in holding these youth accountable and moving forward in a positive way.
As a parent, it can be difficult to receive the news that your child has been involved in a self/peer exploitation (often coined in media as “sexting”) incident. Self/peer exploitation is generally defined as youth creating, sending or sharing sexual images and/or videos with peers via the Internet and/or electronic devices (i.e. through cell phone messaging, messaging apps, social networking sites, etc.).
What should parents know about this issue?
Be aware that adolescents do not typically share experiences they are embarrassed or ashamed of with their parents — don’t assume you would know if there was a problem.
Youth will make errors in judgment — it is all a part of growing up. When an adolescent does make a mistake, use this as an opportunity for her/him to learn and grow. Encourage her/him to separate the error in judgment from how s/he defines her/himself.
The circulation of sexual images/videos among peers and their distribution via the Internet can have short- and long-term impacts. The effects will vary according to an adolescent’s personality, temperament, available support systems, and resiliency.
Conversations to have with your adolescent:
Discuss the difference between healthy relationships (i.e. loving, respectful, caring) and unhealthy relationships (i.e. manipulative, intimidating, pressuring). Remind your teen that pressure from a boyfriend/girlfriend to engage in sexual conversations or share sexual images/videos does not constitute a caring relationship.
Explain the importance of establishing and respecting personal boundaries when using technology. Both the information your teen has shared and the information others have shared with your teen should be protected and handled with respect (i.e. not shared with others). Emphasize that this continues to apply once a relationship has come to an end.
Discuss the types of problems that may arise from sharing private and intimate information, including images and videos electronically. Once information is sent, it can be easily misused. This may include the recipient showing it to friends, sending or posting it online, or using it to manipulate the other person, for example, to engage in further sexual activity.
Teach your adolescent that it may be illegal for people to manufacture, possess or distribute naked or sexually explicit pictures/videos of people under 18 years of age.
For more information to help parents manage this growing social challenge go to External link, opens in a new windowcybertip.ca/self_peer_exploitation.