One in four Irish children has taken part in ‘sexting’. [Irish Independent, by Clodagh Sheehy, 20/01/14]

Forensic psychologist Dr Maureen Griffin says one in four children in this country send or receive these sexually explicit photograph and text messages, and children as young as 10 are involved.

The Department of Education has confirmed it is developing a programme for junior and senior second-level students on “personal safety”.

Now Dr Griffin wants to ensure that sexting is included in the programme.

She says it is extremely important that this issue is covered in the lesson plan.

Her call follows moves in the UK, where Education Secretary Michael Govehas bowed to pressure from teachers, parents and sexual health experts to update sex education in schools to include the dangers of online pornography and sexting.

Dr Griffin stressed that while parents have a primary role in monitoring their children’s phone use, schools are increasingly being faced with the problems.

Sexting, along with phone and internet pornography, is “rife among school children from third class upwards and sometimes even younger,” said Dr Griffin, whose company, Internet Safety for Schools, delivers programmes covering the whole area of cyber-bullying.

She said that children and teenagers using social media like Snapchat “don’t understand the wider implications of what they are doing.

“They think once they send the picture it’s gone and don’t understand that someone can take a screenshot … and send it on.

CONSEQUENCES

“They are distanced from sending these pictures because they are only pushing buttons on their phone and it removes them from thinking about the consequences”.

She added: “Everyone knows what to do if a man with a bag of sweets comes up and asks you to get into his car — but we need to break down the distance technology creates.”

The psychologist emphasises that “education is key” in helping young people to deal with peer pressure, giving them the tools to block and deal with sexting when it happens, but also reassuring them that they have the right to say “No”.

Eton bans Snapchat over concerns it could be used for sexting. [ The Independent, by Adam Withnall, 5/1/2014 ].

The messaging service, which deletes images and videos after they have been viewed and whose CEO recently rejected a $3 billion takeover bid from Facebook, has unwittingly developed a reputation for being used as a platform for sexting.

As a result, the app has now been added to a list of programmes which are blocked on the school’s wireless network – though that won’t necessarily stop boys getting their hands on it altogether.

Headmaster Tony Little told the SundayTelegraph: “It is blocked from the Eton wireless internet system.”

He added: “Boys can still use it via the 3G phone network, but we hope that blocking it on our network will, at least, make them think twice.

“This is part of our continuing effort to educate boys in the sensible use of technology.”

Eton has previously said it doesn’t want to be the “last dinosaur standing” when it comes to the use of and education about technology in schools. In November the head of the school’s online team, Percy Harrison, told theTimes they were working on collaborating with London-based tech entrepreneurs, and said: “Twenty years from now what happens in school will be dramatically different.”

Snapchat has recently suffered from security concerns after a group of hackers posted the account details of more than 4.6 million users online.

Last year its 23-year-old co-founder and CEO Evan Spiegel was reported to have turned down an offer from Facebook of $3 billion (£1.9 billion) for his young firm.

Young people are sexting – but that doesn’t mean they necessarily want to be, says research. [ The Independent, by Antonia Molloy, 6/1/2014 ].

More than half (52.3 per cent) of young adults have engaged in “ unwanted but consensual sexting with a committed partner”, according to research to be published in February in the journalComputers in Human Behaviour.

Most did so for flirtation, foreplay, to fulfil a partner’s needs, or for intimacy, but women were more likely to consent to unwanted sexting because of anxieties about their relationships.

The research, which was carried out by scientists at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI), polled 155 undergraduates in committed relationships on their sexting habits.

Fifty-five per cent of the female respondents said they had previously engaged in unwanted sexting, while 48 per cent of men had done the same.

The results show similarities between sexual behaviour online and off: in both cases, couples will willingly go along with sex, even when they do not feel like it, from reasons ranging from satisfying their partner to avoiding an argument.

But while women are often considered to engage in unwanted sex more than men, the research shows only a small difference in the number of men and women partaking in unwanted sexting.

The authors of the article argued “gender-role expectations” could be to blame. Men might be more likely to agree to undesired sexting because doing so is “relatively easy and does not require them to invest more into the relationship,” while women might be discouraged from virtual sex because it fails to help them attain their relationship “goals”.

The survey also showed that people who were anxious about their relationships were more likely to send begrudging sexts, in a bid to alleviate fears about alienation or abandonment by their partners.