It’s just a matter of time until we, Great Britain, are put into lockdown and told to isolate within our homes. Whether we live on our own, with one other person, or a big family, the feelings of loneliness will be high during this time.
We know our friends will be there after the lockdown, the laughs and the friendship will continue as normal. But what about the new relationships, the blossoming romances that will have to be put on hold for a few months? It is natural to want to be romantically involved with someone but how are we going to do this in a time where we are confined to our own homes where our only contact to those people will be through our devices and technology?
Let’s talk legal! Indecent and explicit images of children (u18s) are illegal. So what’s illegal? Taking them – If you take an explicit image of you or someone else. Making them – forcing someone or pressurising someone into taking a photo, as well as setting it up without them knowing. Publishing/Distributing – sending a photo of you or someone else to one or more people. Showing – if you just show someone even without sending it to their device. And finally, possessing with intent to distribute – and how can we truly know someone’s intent – so if someone sends it to you, delete it and let someone know you have!
So if it is illegal, why does it still happen SO much? We speak about the consequences ALL THE TIME! We talk a lot about how sexting is the cause of problems but what if we are using sexting as a quick solution to other problems, that then in turn create more problems? If we know about the name calling, the stigma, the digital footprint, parents & teachers seeing it or knowing, why does it still happen? What AREN’T we talking about? Well, a lot.
So, teenagers, this post is for you. Your friendships and relationships are changing all the time. The person right now that is your best friend may have been the person sitting next to you in reception, or it could be the person that suits you at the moment to be friends with. We see the Facebook birthday posts and the insta birthday stories. Are they all really your “favourite person in the world”, “best friend forever”, maybe yes but also maybe not. What about the boyfriends and girlfriends you have now? The crush you had 2 years ago, do you still fancy them or does the thought of you fancying them make you absolutely CRINGE?
Relationships Change: If you’re sending some ‘nudes’ to your current partner and then you break up, do you trust them with these photos? Once you send a photo of yourself to someone else, it is completely out of your control and in someone else’s hands. You need to make sure that YOU control your life, don’t let anyone else have such a power over you. When people are hurt, they can sometimes turn bitter or nasty, having an explicit photo of you is giving someone too much power.
Replacing the intimacy that you are already having: You may both be 16 years old, already engaging in a consensual sexual relationship that may have to stop for a while. Under the law, 16 & 17 year olds are still children and so although you are legally allowed to give your consent to sexual intercourse, explicit images are in fact illegal.
Not being ready for sexual acts: There are also those teenage relationships when one partner is ready to move the next level and the other isn’t, in reality that could be really difficult for both people. The person that doesn’t want to do more may feel or be told they need to show their partner they like them in another way. Everyone is a bit more comfortable at home and tucked safely behind a screen and with the pressures of being in a teenage relationship, ‘sexting’ is something typically used for this. If you aren’t ready or comfortable engaging with your partner in person, truth is that you probably aren’t 100% comfortable with this either. Keeping your partners entertained and interested during the lockdown may lead to your thoughts turning to sexting but you need to be 100% comfortable with everything that you do, not just the physical in person stuff.
The cheap thrills: Boredom is DEFINITELY going to happen during the lockdown. There are only so many Netflix series and games of scrabble before we are pulling our hair out! Sexting, specifically on snapchat may be something people decide is quite thrilling – will they screenshot, won’t they. If they don’t, great! If they do, ****! So let’s say they don’t, who did they open it with? Was it actually them, just them, were they with their older sibling, sitting with their mum, etc. If they screen shot it, well read the earlier paragraph – they now have THE POWER.
A self-esteem boost: I see all these people buying toilet rolls, am I the only one stocking up on crisps? Isolation is going to be tricky trying to find a routine that not only works for us and the people in our house hold, but also makes us feel productive. We know that uploading a photo to Instagram and getting all the notifications of likes makes us feel good because we feel valued, seen and desirable. But will we need MORE than that come lockdown? I’m sure there will be lots of snapchats flying about captioned “another day in isolation” paired with a cute filter and a subtle yet posed pose. Sometimes a complimentary response makes us feel good and we want more, wanting more is okay but you don’t need to show more.
Whatever the reason is, the complications and the aftermath will be very much the same. Yes, times are tough and seem to be getting tougher but we will be out the lockdown soon, and when we are, we will be wanting to make the most of everything, not dealing with issues like this. So before you click, just take a moment to think if that really is your best option. There is always another way or another solution to our COVID-19 relationship related problems.
Youth Engagement Manager, Maccabi GB
Side note – if someone you know sends an explicit image and needs to deal with it, there is always someone who will help them. People make mistakes and it is important to deal with it sooner rather than later. Encourage them to talk to a trusted adult like a parent, guardian, teacher or youth leader and contact the Police, specifically CEOP or go to CEOP.com for advice and guidance.