LIFESTYLE

Sexting -- The Shocking Pandemic Among South African Teens

"I would go so far as to say it has actually become a societal norm for teenagers in South Africa to take and send nudes."

27/10/2017 10:40 SAST | Updated 27/10/2017 14:41 SAST
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Sexting is one of the biggest issues faced by South African teens.

This is according to author and leading social media law expert, Emma Sadleir.

"I would go so far as to say it has actually become a societal norm for teenagers in South Africa to take and send nudes," she told HuffPost SA during a Facebook Live Chat on social media laws.

"It's important to understand how permanent digital content is."

"It's [sexting] almost like a modern social media currency."

In a UK survey earlier this year, South Africa came out as the top sexting nation of the world, with 77 percent of respondents from the country claiming to have done it.

This makes Sadleir very nervous because of the power of digital content. "It's important to understand how permanent digital content is."

"I can mess up as a 14-year-old and 10 years later, that digital content can come back to traumatise a person."

South Africa came out as the top sexting nation of the world.

Sadleir cautioned about the public nature of the internet. "We live in a world of a screenshot," she explained where a private conversation can easily and quickly end up being public content.

Her advice to parents is that they must teach their children about the dangers of having an online presence. "Teach children that, if you wouldn't put it up on a billboard next to a huge photo of your face, your name and the name of the school you go to, don't put it on digital."

"We have received calls from teens who have been cyberbullied because indiscreet pictures of them were made public," said Cassey Chambers, the operations director at the South African Depression And Anxiety Group (SADAG).

"Teens innocently share their photos with a boyfriend or girlfriend and think it will remain private, but with one click it [the photo] is shared, goes viral and everyone can give a comment or their two cents," she added.

"The humiliation and shame that can come from this can send one straight into a depression," she cautioned. The impact can last for months or even years as they may have to relive the experience owing to the permanent nature of the internet.

Chambers agrees with Sadleir's advice that parents warn teenagers about the consequences of social media engagement.

Watch the rest of the live chat with Sadleir here:

*Sadleir is the co-author of Selfies, Sexts and Smartphones: A teenager's online survival guide

and Don't Film Yourself Having Sex