Sexting for ‘insurance’ [, by Rosemarie Lentini, 31/3/2011]

Teenagers are exchanging explicit photos of themselves as a form of “insurance” to stop their photos being circulated. Source: AFP

TEENAGERS are exchanging explicit photos of themselves as a form of “insurance” to stop their pictures being circulated via mobile phones.

A two-year research project into sexting – sending sexually explicit messages, photos or videos via text message – shows adolescents are blackmailing each other with nude photos to protect themselves from their own increasingly risky behaviour.

Researcher Nina Funnell has spoken to hundreds of youths aged between 15 and 18 about sexting habits.

Ms Funnell said “sexting” had become an accepted part of adolescent dating culture.

“The common idea is young people are doing this as a response to pressure or they’re brainwashed by popular culture,” she said.

“Young people don’t say this. What I hear is it’s about flirtation and pleasure and exploring their sexuality.”

Teen sexting experiences shared with Ms Funnell include:

A year 11 high school student who sent a nude photo of herself to her boyfriend on condition he send one of himself – an “insurance photo” – in case they broke up and he used it against her.

A 16-year-old boy who was shocked when a girl sent an explicit photo of herself to get his attention.

Year 10 private school boys were asked by a year 10 female student from another school to send nude photos for a “league table”.

Deakin University psychology professor Marita McCabe said teenagers had always “pushed the barriers” when exploring sexuality – now they were incorporating technology.

“We would need to be careful about criminalising something that is consensual and not exploitative,” Prof McCabe said.

“There’s no question that as adolescents, boys and girls go through a process of exploring their sexuality and it’s important that they feel comfortable with their sexuality and to explore in a consensual way how their body operates.”


Connecticut Girl Allegedly Bullied by Classmates Posts Plight on YouTube [, 30/3/2011]

Alye Pollack, seen here in a homemade video posted to YouTube March 14, describes the alleged bullying suffered at Bedford Middle School in Westport, Conn. (YouTube).
Alye Pollack, seen here in a homemade video posted to YouTube March 14, describes the alleged bullying suffered at Bedford Middle School in Westport, Conn. (YouTube).

A 13-year-old girl apparently bullied by her peers has taken her plight to YouTube, posting a haunting video that describes the alleged torment suffered at a top Connecticut middle school.

Alye Pollack, an eighth-grader at Bedford Middle School in Westport, Conn., uploaded the video, titled “Words are worse than Sticks and Stones,” on March 14. As of Wednesday morning, the three-minute clip had more than 30,100 views.

Pollack, who does not speak in the homemade video, is seen holding up signs recounting the alleged bullying endured at the hands of her classmates.

“I am bullied. Not a day has gone by without one of these words — ‘bitch,’ ‘whore,’ ‘fat, ‘lesbo,’ ‘slut,’ ‘freak,’ ugly,’ ‘weird,’ fag,” the signs read.

“I don’t cut but I’m close,” Pollack writes. “I’m in therapy/guidance more than my classes.”

“Think before you say things. It might save lives,” reads another sign.

After the video was posted, the school  principal wrote in a letter to parents that he was investigating a case of cyber bullying, reports.

The superintendent has declined comment on Pollack’s case, specifically, citing privacy reasons, according to the station.

“We’ve been very rigid about being intolerant about bullying,” Dr. Elliott Landon told the Westport News. “If there’s any sign that a kid’s in trouble, we act on that immediately.”

Click here to read more on the alleged bullying case at Bedford Middle School from

Click here to see Alye Pollack’s video on YouTube


“In A Better World” – Director Explores Bullying In Oscar Winner. [, by Christina Rath & Sue Anna Yeh, 30/3/2011].

Courtesy of Sony Pictures
Courtesy of Sony Pictures

Danish director Susanne Bier added Oscar winner to her resume in late February when “In a Better World” won Best Foreign Film just as it had at the Golden Globes.

The film won’t be opening in the US until April 1st, but it could not come at a more appropriate time given its subject matter.

The film follows the struggles of 10 year old Elias (Markus Rygaard) who is bullied constantly at his school.

Although the administration sees what is going on and his parents seek its help in putting an end to it, the teachers try to spin it by blaming Elias’ social struggles on the recent separation of his parents.

Elias’ father (Mikael Persbrandt) travels frequently to Africa where he works as a doctor in a refugee camp, leaving his son without the support he may need.

Luckily, for Elias, a new boy transfers to the school, Christian (William Johnk Nielson), who has recently moved to town following his mother’s death.

Christian stands up for Elias, but it isn’t until he threatens the bullies with a knife that they finally back off.

From there, Christian launches a plan to seek revenge on a man who had an altercation with Elias’ father. The film goes on to explore the ways in which people stand up for themselves and run society when authority figures can’t control what is going on.

The film escalates to some graphic and disturbing moments, but told through the eyes of the young boys it’s easy to see how people can be driven to snap back and stand up for themselves.

In the past few weeks the topic of bullying has been making headlines after a video surfaced of an Australian teen who is shown body slamming a bully who had provoked him moments earlier. While violent, many people are proclaiming the bullied teen who fought back to be a hero and within his rights to do so.

President Obama held a press conference on bullying earlier this month where he reacted to an 11 year old who hanged himself after being tormented at school. Obama said, “No family should have to go through what these families have gone through. No child should feel that alone.”

Susanne Bier paints a clear picture that transcends language and cultures to look at a reality so many children across the world are facing.

The young actors play their roles so genuinely, and the character of Christian in particular has such a mature yet volatile nature to him.

This well-made film is definitely Oscar worthy and something that Americans should see as it should spark some interesting and constructive discussions on bullying.

Cashless school dinners ‘reduce stigma around free meals’ [, 22/3/2011].

School cashless catering schemes could help establishments in the crackdown against bullying, it has been suggested.

The Belfast Telegraph reports that more than 20,000 children in Northern Ireland are missing out on free school lunches because they are scared they will be teased by other kids.

However, an Audit Office report suggests cashless school dinner payment could be one way of overcoming this problem.

Furthermore, the news provider stated that the system has helped to reduce bullying because youngsters no longer have lunch money for others to steal.

The report said: “Cashless systems generally involve the use of electronic cards instead of meal tickets so that pupils in receipt of free school meals are treated in the same way as those paying for their meal.”

This comes after a document from The Senedd’s Children and Young People Committee also highlighted the fact many youngsters are too embarrassed to collect their free meals.

Chairwoman Helen Mary Jones said the Welsh government is being urged to consider a cashless system, the South Wales Argus reported.

Beyond ‘Sexting’: Teenagers Sending Racy Videos [, by Mary Pflum & Michael Milberger, 22/3/2011].

The proliferation of cell phones equipped with video cameras has made shooting and sending x-rated videos easier than ever for teenagers.

The world of “sexting” — sending sexually explicit text messages — amongst teens that was once limited to raunchy words and pictures is increasingly moving into the video domain — with devastating consequences.

Not a day goes by for 25 year-old Melanie Paradis that she doesn’t think about the events that unfolded during her junior year of high school after an explicit video she made for a high school crush earned her the nickname “porn star.”


“He asked me to send him a video using my webcam of me taking my clothes off.” Paradis said. “I did it after school one day and sent it to him.”


The video of then 15-year-old Paradis stripping was shared by her crush with another student, then uploaded to the school’s computer lab; where it was viewed by other students, teachers, and even the principal.

“I’d be at the movie theater on the weekend with friends and someone would shout ‘porn star’ at me,” Paradis said. “There was no escaping that I had made a mistake. I’d made a really big mistake.”


According to a 2008 study by the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, more than 1 in 5 teenage girls have sent or posted nude images of themselves.


“It’s a definite crisis,” said Sgt. Thomas Rich, an Internet safety expert. “It’s just modern day truth or dare with technology involved.


The pressure to send illicit material is also beginning at shockingly young ages.


“I was asked for a picture in seventh grade,” said 15-year-old High School student Jessica Pereira.


The explicit images are often made between teens in a relationship, but after the teens break-up the videos can go viral.


When 16-year-old Julia Kirouac broke up with her boyfriend last fall, she shared the sexy images she says he pressured her into making for him.


“I felt like my whole entire world just, like, crumbled,” Julia said. “I didn’t—understand anything because the person that I had trusted the most did that to me.”


The humiliation sent Julia into a deep depression and in early February Julia downed a bottle of pills — in an attempt to kill herself.


She spent a week in the hospital recovering. Now, she says, she’s learned a powerful lesson she wants to share with other teens.


“I just want them to know that they don’t have to do anything that they don’t want do,” Julia said fighting back tears. ” And if they think that they need to send pictures or videos, whatever it is, to a guy that they’re dating or that they like, it’s not worth it at all.

Officials push to combat cyberbullying [, by Emily Babay, 12/3/2011]

Social networking means many teenagers are never far from a bully, harassment or unwanted sexual messages.

Teens are joining social-networking sites at younger ages, spreading bullying and other ugly behaviors to the virtual realm. As a result, officials have been ramping up efforts to prevent threats like online harassment and “sexting.”

“In the past, you dealt with a bully on the playground. You left and it was over,” said Officer Marc MacDonald, a school resource officer with the Fairfax County police. “These kids are 24 hours a day into social media, on their phones, everywhere they go. They can’t just walk away from it.”

One in three teens ages 12 to 17 have been subjected to online harassment, according to a 2010 Pew Internet and American Life Project presentation. Fifteen percent said they received sexting messages.

Locally, Lakelands Park Middle School in Gaithersburg notified parents last year after authorities found students making threats online. A 14-year-old girl in Prince William County was charged with stalking for posing as a boy on Facebook to strike up a relationship with another girl. And Montgomery County officials busted a middle school boy who rented out his iPod Touch so others could view photos of nude female classmates.

Such cases have spurred authorities to put cyberbullying and other social-media-related crimes on their radars.

President Obama held an anti-bullying conference last week, and the D.C. Bar Association’s upcoming youth law fair will focus on cyberbullying.

The law fair aims to teach teens that cyberbullying can lead to anxiety, depression and poor performance in school, just like physical bullying, said Vanessa Taylor, the association’s events and outreach coordinator.

“Once you send a message, you can’t take it back,” she said.

The problem is especially prevalent among middle schoolers, experts said. That’s when youth usually begin going online without assistance from their parents and start using social media sites like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, said Michelle Boykins, spokeswoman for the National Crime Prevention Council.

By the numbers
» 93: Percent of teens age 12 to 17 who go online.
» 75: Percent who have a cell phone.
» 73: Percent who use online social networks.
» 32: Percent who have experienced online harassment.
» 15: Percent who have received sexting messages.
» 4: Percent who have sent a sexting message.
Source: Pew Research Center
Upcoming cyberbullying events
» Workshop for Parents: Monday, 7 p.m., Watha T. Daniel-Shaw Library
» D.C. youth law fair: Saturday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Moultrie Courthouse
» Unified Prevention Coalition of Fairfax County Public Schools conference: April 2, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., Lake Braddock Secondary School


Boykins said online aggression often starts after an in-person dispute.

“Something happens at school or a mall that’s a confrontation that turns into a war of words or harassment online,” she said.

And sometimes, those physical confrontations themselves end up the Web. Last week, a video of a fight at High Point High School briefly surfaced on YouTube. Students have said the fight was posted to bring attention to violence at the school.

“This was a clear and explicit cry for help,” said Prince George’s school board member Edward Burroughs. “In other cases, there are times when we have students post fight videos just for entertainment or for no good cause.”

Police and school officials say they sometimes are hamstrung in efforts to discipline offenders. Forty-four states and the District have bullying laws, but only six include language specifically about cyberbullying, according to the Cyberbullying Research Center. Legislators in Maryland and Virginia have pushed to explicitly include text messages and social networks in harassment legislation.

Social networks, though, are also stepping up safety measures. Formspring, a social network with a reputation as a forum for bullying, announced that it will work with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to better detect online bullying. And Facebook is preparing to debut a system to let users report abusive content to someone they know — like a parent or teacher — in addition to asking the site to remove it.