Technology & Media
Technology and sexual health are linked in many ways. Digital and social media can be used to support sexual health, like this website for example, or media campaigns that encourage people to make healthy decisions that protect and promote their sexual health. In this case, digital media can improve sexual health knowledge and behaviours. Technology and media also connect people from all over, and let anyone access all kinds of information, images and videos. This can lead to a sense of community for people, but it may also lead to negative outcomes or experiences.
The current Alberta curricula for K-9 Health and Life Skills and high school CALM do not include any outcomes that explicitly deal with sexting or pornography. However, these topics often come up in class discussions or questions. Below are some key points that may help inform these discussions in the classroom.
Sexting is when people send or receive sexual pictures, messages, or videos through technology, e.g., cell phone, app, email, or webcam. The word sexting comes from a combination of the words sex and text. Trying to frighten young people away from sexting by only outlining doomsday scenarios is ineffective. Some people express intimacy by sharing consensual sexts. Some concepts about sexting that students need to know include:
- Creating sexual pictures of anyone younger than 18 years old is considered child sexual abuse material. This is against the law.
- Pictures and messages that were intended to be private can be shared without permission. It’s not possible to ‘unsend’ a sext. Once pictures or messages are in cyberspace, it can be hard to control who sees or shares them, or have them deleted.
- Sharing sexts that weren’t for others to see, may be considered cyberbullying and may be against the law (e.g., child sexual abuse material, criminal harassment, luring a child, and uttering threats).
- The sharing of sexts can have negative effects on self-image, mental health, and relationships.
For more information, go to Bullying.
Sexting and the Law
- It is illegal to:
- create sexual images/ videos of anyone younger than 18 years old (including a video a person creates themselves). This is considered child sexual abuse material (sometimes known as child pornography).
- possess child sexual abuse material, i.e., to save child sexual abuse material on a phone, computer or other device
- distribute child sexual abuse material, i.e., sell or share images/ videos. This includes showing it to people, forwarding it, or posting it to the internet.
Key messages for your students if they ask about sexting:
- Think before you send. You need to feel in control about what you send and receive.
- Be kind and show respect. In the electronic world, act the same as you would when you’re face-to-face.
- Never assume your messages or pictures will stay private. They may be copied, shared, or stored.
- Say no when you’re not comfortable with what is happening. Talk to a trusted adult about it.
- Consider how this could impact you now or in the future. How will others react? Your friends, family, or future boss might see it. How would you feel if that happened?
- Don’t forward. Sharing sexts is against the law.
For more information on sexting and online safety, go to Additional Resources.
*Adapted from My Health Alberta
Even with internet filters, apps and restrictions, pornography and sexually explicit content is accessible to your students, both intentionally and unintentionally. Some children find pornography accidentally and some seek it out of curiosity.
When talking about pornography or sexually explicit images, you can build on media literacy lessons and conversations you have had with them. As they grow, children learn that when people get hurt on TV, they are just acting or pretending to be hurt. Framing pornography as a performance helps people understand that what they’re seeing isn’t real. Knowing that it’s a performance will let children know that pornography can represent unrealistic and unhealthy sexuality (and sexual assault, sexual abuse and physical abuse in some cases), and it is not showing them real intimacy or healthy relationships.
- Let them know that curiosity about bodies, sex and relationships is normal.
- Explain that pornography and exploitative images are often found online. Seeing pornography can be very disturbing to some children, and they should tell a trusted adult if they see anything upsetting online.
- Build media literacy skills with your students. Let them know that pornography, like mass media, sends messages about sexuality, relationships, stereotypes and body image, which can be unhealthy and unrealistic.
- Reinforce the importance of protecting privacy and online safety when using technology and media for education.
For more information on pornography, go to Additional Resources.
Teaching about Media Literacy
The media sends messages about sexuality, relationships, stereotypes, and body image that have a powerful influence on people in society. Children need to develop skills to understand these messages. Here are a few ways your students might develop these skills.
- Use teachable moments as a chance to connect what students are watching, playing and hearing to a belief, value, expectation, or to introduce a certain conversation.
- Teach students to critically assess the media they are consuming. Teach them to ask questions like: Who created this and what message are they trying to send? Who is the media aimed at? Who is represented and who is missing?
- Provide opportunities for students to create media, as well as analyze it. Have students choose what they would include, what they would leave out, and how to communicate their message. This may help students understand how others make similar decisions.
- Make media education about asking questions, not learning answers. Model keeping an open mind and using critical analysis, not emotions, to assess media messages.
- Recognize that all people enjoy media. Learning to critically assess media is not the same as criticizing, and doesn’t mean we have to stop enjoying media. Challenge students to find positive examples in the media they listen to, watch or play.