Children of the Street wants teens to rethink sharing nude pictures

The campaign comes as youth, home from school, spend more time on their phones.

COTS_Sexting_EventPoster_bed_RGB_2020-03-12_LoRes

With classes suspended or cancelled at schools across Canada due to COVID-19, B.C.-based non-profit Children of the Street suspects teens will be spending more time bored on their smartphones – potentially increasing the temptation of sharing nude photos. As a result, its latest campaign to get young people to think twice before sharing photos has become all the more relevant.

Camila Jimenez, program manager at Children of the Street, says that although sending nude and explicit photos are forms of sexual exploitation, some kids see it as what’s become more “of a normalized behaviour now” and, as a result, feel more social pressure to send photos. She says this campaign is meant to not only to get youth to take it more seriously, but also to stop the further dissemination of such photos online.

The organization educates and raises awareness on how young people can keep themselves and their peers safe, primarily through 500 workshops to more than 25,000 youth across British Columbia – though those have been put on hold with the cancellation of in-person classes.

The creative elements of this campaign, created with agency partner Will, include posters of a hand holding up a smartphone-sized couch, bed and bath tub with young people in various states of undress, with the captions like “He thought your nudes were hot. The entire basketball team did too.” or “Your nudes were just for your girlfriend. Until she became your ex-girlfriend.”

COTS_Sexting_EventPoster_sofa_RGB_2020-03-12_LoRes

“There are so many short term and long-term outcomes,” Jimenez tells strategy. “The strategy is to pay attention to the behaviour and really speak out and, as a community, be responsible to really say ‘no’ to sending those images. It’s not a part of a trend, this is a form of sexual exploitation, and your images may go farther than you intend. They think that they’re putting something out there, and it’s just an image that can be erased. We’re hearing this from the youth that are out there and they’re the ones letting us knowit has happened to them.”

She adds that peer-to-peer exploitation “may not be maliciously done, but it’s really not thought [through] and they are not really seeing the consequences to that.”

It’s against the law to send sexual photos or videos of anyone who is, or appears to be, under the age of 18 –­ including of yourself. According to a 2018 report by digital and media literacy non-profit MediaSmarts, over 40% of Canadian youth have sent one or more “sexts.” The report also found that youth are most likely to share third-party sexts in-person (36%), as opposed to forwarding them electronically (30%) or posting them publicly (25%), though that behaviour may change with in-person interactions off the table for the next several months.

The primary target for this campaign, Jimenez notes, is high school students, with a secondary target of their parents. This month-long campaign was launched this week and will appear on social media platforms like Snapchat, as well as an OOH element in Vancouver. The campaign drives to a microsite where youth, parents and teachers can find out more information about the issue, an online resource that has become an even more important vehicle for the organization, now that in-person workshops with youth aren’t an option.