In the wake of the phenomenal rise in texting by teens as a main way to communicate with each other, there is a serious risk to youth who send nude photos, Family Services and Consumer Affairs Minister Gord Mackintosh said today.

Mackintosh urged teens to “think before you press send.” 

Today is international Safer Internet Day, which reminds parents of the importance of teaching their children about online safety.

The Honourable Gord Mackintosh

“The average young person is now sending almost 3,500 texts in a month.  This was unheard of a few years ago,” Mackintosh said.  “Along with this sea change comes a serious threat to the safety of teens who send each other sexual images of themselves, a practice called sexting.  The images can end up online forever and cause a myriad of problems from humiliation to extortion, criminal sanctions and suicide.  One American study indicated that 20 per cent of teens say they have participated in sexting.” 

Teens and parents must become more aware of the importance of safe texting on cell phones with built-in cameras, said Mackintosh.  Specifically, he added, teens must commit to never sending nude photos of themselves or others and parents should take a key role teaching their children about safe texting.  The minister urged Manitobans to log onto http://www.texted.ca/, a new interactive website where they can learn about the short-term costs and the long-term ramifications of texting. 

Created by the Canadian Centre for Child Protection, textED.ca is designed to teach teens to be safe, responsible and respectful users of texting technologies.

“Adolescent behaviour is less inhibited with the use of technology, so they tend to say and do things that they might not otherwise do in person.  While technology allows today’s youth to connect with each other in amazing ways, when it is misused, disrespected or abused it can lead to difficult situations and consequences,” said Lianna McDonald, executive director of the centre.  “TextED.ca will help teach teens how to use technology safely and to know what to do when someone crosses the line.” 

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