Law Reform Committee: Sexting (12.06.2013)

Written on the 14 June 2013

Ms CROZIER (Southern Metropolitan) -- I am pleased to rise this evening to speak on the Law Reform Committee inquiry into sexting and the report that was tabled in this place only a couple of weeks ago. It is a very interesting report that the committee has undertaken, as are the issues that have been raised and recommendations that the committee has looked into. The committee was asked to conduct this inquiry following a number of media reports that teens were being charged with child pornography offences after sending explicit images of themselves or their peers by email or phone. We know that mobile phones have made life easier for us but they have also brought with them new challenges, and this is one of them, which this report highlights extensively.

 

The issues that the committee was asked to look into were whether child pornography charges are appropriate for minors who participate in sexting; the extent to which young people are listed on the sex offenders register for sexting-related offences and whether registration is appropriate for these offences; and whether there are adequate legal and other protections available to people who are affected by sexting-related incidents. There are very significant and serious consequences for people who may not quite understand what they are doing.

 

I was looking through this report and I noticed that the origins of sexting were discussed. There is reference to a number of celebrities, if you like, who have been the subject of various articles in the media in relation to sending explicitly worded text messages to women. I do not need to highlight who they are. I think that they are probably quite embarrassed by it, or they should be embarrassed, although it does not seem to have stopped them. Nevertheless, these people have a profile within our community, and I do not think it is good for young people to see them as role models when they behave in this way.

 

The report went on to look at a number of areas in terms of the education about sexting: sexting and the criminal law, young people and the criminal justice system, the appropriateness and adequacy of criminal laws and non-criminal law and sexting. I note that the report cites a case study of a young couple in Florida in the United States who unwittingly emailed digital pictures of themselves engaged in sexual conduct to somebody. They did not realise the implications of what they were doing in sending on the images. This was quite a well highlighted case in the United States and could have had dire consequences for those young people because of the conduct in which they had engaged.

 

This material can obviously be very explicit and there is the potential for it to be distributed as pornography. I think that that is a real concern because, as I said, it may be done in an innocent manner by young people but the potential for these images to fall into the wrong hands, as has been highlighted in this report, is quite significant.

 

Once these images are posted on the internet or mobile phones or are circulated using technology we have a real issue with people who have engaged in such behaviour and then later realised the implications of what they have done.

 

I would also like to say that the government has taken this issue very seriously. It has been working in relation to cyberbullying, another issue that is closely related to the issue. It has worked with Facebook to tackle cyberbullying, which can potentially be very closely aligned to sexting and other actions. I note that in June last year the Victorian coalition government and Facebook held a virtual presentation on safety and security for secondary school students. I also note that earlier this year, in February, more than 22 000 students in years 4 to 6 learnt about cyberbullying, including issues such as keeping online photos private and dealing with inappropriate content. I congratulate the government on those initiatives. I also congratulate the Law Reform Committee on having prepared this very useful report.


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