PENTICTON — Kaylin Hickey’s name will be on the national sex offender registry for 10 years because he exchanged nude photos with a 15-year-old girl.
He also served 30 days in jail after a sentencing earlier this year in Penticton Provincial Court and he wasn't the only one in Penticton she sent the photos to. These are the consequences for sexting with a minor.
But it’s not just strangers sending out these racy photos, or asking to receive them; it’s girlfriends and boyfriends and classmates in schools too.
A steady flow of kids are coming to teachers and counsellors at Penticton High, saying they are the victim of sexting and cyberbullying, vice principal Todd Manuel says, enough that educators are no longer waiting for them. They start the conversation with students and parents about the consequences.
Manuel says it’s important to be in a comfortable environment and educate students on how to stay safe on their phones and be responsible.
“It’s a shared responsibility... it’s a community issue,” Manuel says. “There’s nothing simple about it.”
The school district’s administration team also talk during their regular meetings about what changes can be made to improve student and parent knowledge.
Last week, board members sent out an email to district staff with statistics from a recent study on sexting in schools including tip sheets for parents and lesson plans for teachers. According to the report, 49 per cent of students in Grade 4 have access to a phone on a regular basis and 39 per cent of students who have cell phones say they sleep with them in case they get calls or messages at night. That goes up to over half in grade nine.
Last week Pen High heard a presentation by Darren Laur, a Victoria RCMP officer who, along with his wife, spoke about cell phone safety, privacy and the consequences of sexploitation. Laur said a lot of teenagers think they’re invincible and don't think about the ramifications if these pictures are made public.
He told the story of a 16-year-old couple who claimed they were in love and thought they were going to be together forever. The girlfriend sent a full frontal nudity photo to her boyfriend. After they broke up a few months later, he went onto her Facebook account and posted the photo. Then he changed her password and logged out so she couldn’t get in to take down the photo.
For three hours the photo of her was available to her friends and family on Facebook. The police were able to take down the photo but she couldn’t get those three hours back.
“That destroyed her,” Laur said.
He said he’s heard of boys trading pictures of girls for chips and pop at school.
“They have no idea it’s against the law,” he said.
According to the Criminal Code of Canada, if a person has a photo of another who is 16 years or younger, that’s possession of child pornography. And if that photo is shared on the internet, that's distribution of child pornography. And kids don’t realize the severity of these offenses, or that they can even be charged with them, he said.
Some parents think it’s a school issue, not a home or social issue, but Laur said the problem needs to be addressed at home as well as in school.
He suggested compounding the message, repeating it so it's imprinted. And not letting kids have their phones in their rooms at night.
Laur stressed that not all kids are cyberbullying, that most of them—around 75-80 per cent—are “good online citizens.”
“There’s a lot of drama going on in schools and that’s natural,” he said. “But there’s a difference between drama and digital peer aggression.”
“It’s not funny, it’s violent,” Laur said.
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