Young people who create and send sexual images through social media can often find themselves overwhelmed by the circumstances.
Teens can experience fear, despair and victimization after engaging in self-peer exploitation or ‘sexting’ and cyber bullying.
A website has been developed to help young people manage the helplessness they feel when they realize the negative consequences that can occur when they create and send sexual images through social media.
The Canadian Centre for Child Protection (CCCP) has created a web-based, bilingual resource at www.NeedHelpNow.ca. This website is a place where teens can turn to find out how to regain control over what can quickly become a frightening and overwhelming experience. It provides young people with practical advice and helpful information to manage the harassment they might feel over what they may have done online.
The website stresses the importance of seeking support:
“If a sexual picture/video of you is being circulated among your peers, you are likely feeling a wide range of emotions. Depending on your personality, your support network, and your ability to bounce back, you may be feeling anywhere from unconcerned, to highly embarrassed and distraught about this situation. While some people might say they don't care about a sexual picture/video of them being shared online, if you are visiting this site, it is probably safe to say that you are concerned about this issue.”
In a situation like this, young people can be consumed with anxiety and what seems like a million questions about what to do next. This site gets right to the point of the matter with steps on how to get a post taken down from the internet, dealing with peers and harassment, getting help and frequently asked questions such as, “What can I do if I am being pressured by peers to do something I am uncomfortable with?”
The message is crucial: self/peer exploitation is not okay, and no one has to go it alone.
“As a public safety organization, we have great concern for the safety of any teen victimized by the distribution of photographs on the internet and we will provide support in any way we can,” said OPP Commissioner Chris Lewis, police advisor to the Canadian Centre for Child Protection. “The OPP will use every avenue available to promote NeedHelpNow.ca as a potential resource for teens.”
The OPP is supporting this important initiative to enhance safety and help reduce fear and despair among young people. NeedHelpNow.ca provides strategies to empower youth to take action to protect themselves.
NeedHelpNow posters are being distributed by OPP detachments for schools to display, to help raise awareness. The OPP is also distributing a business card with information in communities across the province to promote this program.
Even if you’ve never been involved in sexting or been the victim of harassment, it’s a good idea for parents and youth to visit HYPERLINK "http://www.needhelpnow.ca" www.needhelpnow.ca. They can familiarize themselves with what’s become a serious problem, learn how to handle the possible outcomes or be there for another who’s going through this ordeal.
The OPP and this website are indeed a tremendous resource for today’s youth and we hope to spread the word of HYPERLINK "http://www.needhelpnow.ca" www.needhelpnow.ca as far and wide as possible in hopes this information reaches those who truly need it.
- S.D., OPP, www.needhelpnow.ca