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Canada  

Sexting not rampant

About four in 10 young Canadians have sent a sext and more than six in 10 have received one, suggests a new report, which also puts a spotlight on the unauthorized sharing of sexual photographs among teens.

Still, sexting happens less commonly among youth than many people believe - including nearly all of the survey's 800 16- to 20-year-old participants, said Matthew Johnson, director of education for the non-profit organization MediaSmarts.

It's also not an "intrinsically harmful" behaviour, he said, with the majority of sexts remaining private between the sender and intended recipient.

"We need to move from fear-mongering to talking about things from an ethical and moral point of view," said Johnson, who called the report one of the first in the world to focus on the non-consensual sharing of intimate images.

"We need to be talking about consent in all contexts, including digital contexts ... and to really send a loud and clear message that this is not normal, and this is not OK, and nothing gives you the right to share someone's sext except them actually telling you that you can."

Of the survey respondents who said they had sent a sext in the past, about 40 per cent said at least one of their intimate photos had been shared without their consent.

"Even though boys and girls send and receive sexts at similar rates, and even though they have their sexts shared at similar rates, the harm is very much unequal, and it falls much more heavily on girls," Johnson said.

"There can be harm done to people's reputation. Obviously, there's an inherent harm just in the loss of privacy and violation of consent ... (senders) have been blackmailed, in some cases.



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