Fri | Dec 9, 2016

Explicit sex and online posting among teens

Published:Thursday | January 1, 2015 | 12:00 AM

There must be some kind of clandestine fetish group for young people unbeknown to the more prudish among us. That, I have concluded, can be the only explanation for the copious amount of pictures of the genitalia of school-aged youth and videos of their coitus. What kind of vulgar fad is this? When did it start?

In 2004 - my last year of high school - when more and more people were beginning to own mobile phones, digital cameras, and computers and people were creating music with their Nokia 3310 (the marker of privilege at the time), I saw one of the first sexually explicit images outside of porn and YahooChat webcams. It was a female student of Glenmuir High School who was photographed, by her friends, kissing another female student in the mall, while in their uniform. It sparked a lot of whispers for very obvious reasons. And so, while it took a very long time to download the pictures on our dial-up connection, they were eagerly forwarded to everyone who might be interested. It was sort of embarrassing, for her, I suppose. Everyone was talking about it, but not about the potential dangers of these devices and how we might protect ourselves as children online.

About a year later, a video showcasing the fellating skills of one Immaculate Conception High student though was mistakenly (so they say) transferred to all and sundry at Champs(?) broke the Internet. It was uncommon at that time, but by 2007, every young girl seemed willing to allow their boyfriend or male sexual partner to record them. It didn't matter how they were having sex (oral or vaginal, with condom or without). I recall seeing one of some students at Norman Manley High School having bareback sex on the staircase at school.

content went viral

All the pictures and videos went viral. It appeared everyone was trying to outdo each other for sake of popularity or malicious intent. The Government's response was to introduce and strengthen legislation but the situation did not prod them to pioneer an Internet safety and security lesson in schools.

What is even more frightening is the fact that so many of our children have access to computers, laptops, mobile phones, and other mobile devices that are oftentimes connected to the Internet. So much information, including their home address and whereabouts with nary a concern about the potential danger they might be putting themselves in.

There is an apparent currency with recording videos and taking pictures and sharing them. According to Dr Forbes, "during adolescence establishing one's sexual and social identities is paramount, so, too, is the need to fit in, to be accepted. Posting sex online brings recognition and great attention".

Of course, increased access to technology and the Internet makes it so much easier to capture these moments in "passion of the moment" as Dr Forbes calls it but young people must be careful about what they do. The initial intention might very well never included any sort of sharing but (private) content on our devices seemingly have a peculiar way of becoming public - making us the talk of the town, a (porn?) star or the 'deflowered damage goods' (read harlot). It might even affect our opportunities for employment, or education.

Even more concerning is the fact that children are hooking up with complete strangers they meet online. I have heard quite a story about school children meeting strangers online and then agreeing to meet them offline. I remember one of my friends in Clarendon was kidnapped in 2008 by one or more men and it was rumoured that it was a guy she had met online. I have also heard stories from of males and females as students - from as early as 2003/2004, when one telecoms company had a text chat room for gays and lesbians and one media entity had an "alternative" chat room - meeting strangers offline. I imagine people were more careful those days since the situation was more different. However, from what I hear, many of these young people, particularly those who are socio-economically vulnerable, are eager to ask strangers to meet up at their home and even go on excursions with them.

Should we be worried that such images are likely to become even more popular given the Government's commendable thrust to increase access to computers and tablets as well as Internet? Who is sensitising our children and their teachers and parents about the dangers that children are exposing themselves to? When will we take Internet safety and security seriously and introduce relevant lessons in the school curriculum?

n Jaevion Nelson is a youth development, HIV and human rights advocate. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and jaevion@gmail.com.