Death of “sexting”?


Guest Blog by

Dr Mike Short CBE

Former UKCCIS Board Member, Vice President, Telefonica Europe

The term “sexting” seems to be taking on a life of its own. But is it helpful or misleading ?

The issues with “sexting” were discussed at a recent UKCCIS Board I attended and it was agreed that generally it was another form of bullying, blended with inappropriate messaging (e.g. email, text, IM, social media, Photo Apps, video or other forms).

By contrast the issues with the term “sexting” are distracting from potential industrial support and singular focus, or any real effort to address the root causes and eliminate this inappropriate behaviour. Some of the other reasons why “sexting” is inappropriate are :

A) It is not used as a term by children, but worse still it is ill defined and confusing.

B) It has been known to create an adverse PR reaction, that seems to generate its own publicity and potentially more of this type of activity. As it is a sensationalist term it needs to be avoided, or else it is just helping to sell news stories, generate research proposals, and not addressing the core problem.

C) It is too close to “texting” and leads to a lot of confusion because of this. In practice most researchers now link it to a wider range of Messaging techniques.

D) It is not used in Mobile phone shops or in Telecomms customer care. It is not part of a real dialogue with parents.

E) It is not really used in Europe, but if left to continue it will be. It is not used in the USA yet most Smartphone designs depend on US industry cooperation ( eg Android, Apple iOS, Microsoft, Blackberry)

F) Some researchers appear to be using the term as if it is a new phenomenon to help win grants.

G) It is wasting resources in Industry putting out fires when we would rather concentrate on helping customers and real (Child) Internet safety.


Let us now move on and see pragmatic measures that define the actual problem with more precision, and see a stop put to these sensationalist terms. In the meantime let’s get on with improving the Internet to be a more powerful resource for us all, and protect children by coming up with real solutions.

About John Carr

John Carr is one of the world's leading authorities on children's and young people's use of digital technologies. He is Senior Technical Adviser to Bangkok-based global NGO ECPAT International, Technical Adviser to the European NGO Alliance for Child Safety Online, which is administered by Save the Children Italy and an Advisory Council Member of Beyond Borders (Canada). Amongst other things John is or has been an Adviser to the United Nations, ITU, the European Union, the Council of Europe and European Union Agency for Network and Information Security and is a former Executive Board Member of the UK Council for Child Internet Safety. He is Secretary of the UK's Children's Charities' Coalition on Internet Safety. John has advised many of the world's largest internet companies on online child safety. In June, 2012, John was appointed a Visiting Senior Fellow at the London School of Economics and Political Science. This was renewed in 2018. More:
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