A few months ago, there was a huge public uproar after photos of semi-nude teens surfaced online. Images of school girls dressed in skimpy dresses and jeans trended online using the hashtag #Iwafikiewazazi (Let this get to their parents).
In June 2015, a Form 3 school girl from Marindi Primary School in Nyamira county committed suicide after alleged humiliation by a school teacher.
The Form 3 girl reportedly committed suicide after a sensual text message conversation with her boyfriend was read out to other students during school parade. Unable to absorb all the shame, the girl decided to take away her life.
Clearly, this trend of young people using their phones to share private information, such as intimate messages and photos, can no longer be ignored. Among its users, this trend is known as ‘Sexting’.
In April 2018, a report by Terre des Hommes, A Netherlands-based organisation working towards the safety of children, revealed an increase in cases where teenagers and children are being targeted by sex predators who sell sexual material to an online audience.
Dubbed the “Dark Side of the Internet for Children” the report reveals how children and teenagers are exchanging sexually-explicit photos or messages (sexting) with adults and, in some cases, strangers.
“Sexting happens between children or teens and their social media friends as well as with strangers met on various social media platforms,” says the report.
“Increased mobile phone penetration and Internet access have given rise to a set of conditions that have made children and adolescents more vulnerable to Online Child Sexual Exploitation (OCSE),”
“Shiko,” the conversation begins, “Go to WhatsApp.”
“I like your profile picture, can I see more? I want one of you showing more skin…A little more flesh,” the stranger texts, kicking in a sensual discussion.
Within a matter of seconds, the girl on the other end sends in a photo. She is semi-nude, her lips giving a suggestive pout to demonstrate sexual desire. The naughty boy is getting turned on.
As noted by the Pulse magazine, a youth entertainment publication, “Youths are also making use of tech-savvy slang as well as acronyms to make sexting sound cool something that makes it even more difficult to follow up in case they are being investigated’.
For example, ‘GNOC’ means “get naked on camera” while ‘PIR’ means “parent in room”. The list is endless.
According to the safe and sound programme, by the Safe and Sound group of UK, Online Child Sexual Exploitation (OCSE) can lead to many negative impacts on the lives of young people such as increased risk of rape, sexual assault, physical violence, sexually-transmitted infections, trafficking and pressure to use drugs and alcohol.
Others impacts may affect their physical and mental health, education and training, family relationships, friends and social interactions, how they view others and negatively affect their relationships with their own children in the future.
Immediate social impacts may include isolation by friends and family, difficulty developing and maintaining relationships, leading to the need to avoid certain places and people.