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B.C. ad evokes Amanda Todd to warn against 'just one photo'

Categories: Canada, Community, Science & Technology

A scene from a new B.C. ad that warns teens not to share suggestive photos of themselves online. (Children of the Street Society/YouTube)

A recent campaign advising teens to imagine each photo they share of themselves on the internet as having the potential to reach thousands is gaining traction online.

The 'Just One Photo' campaign was launched earlier this month by Children of the Street Society, a B.C.-based charity that seeks to protect children from sexual abuse. It gained steam after being featured by outlets outside of the province, like the Toronto Standard, and also outlets outside of Canada, like Business Insider and Mashable.

The video at the center of the campaign features a young girl sitting on her bed flipping through a series of hand-written signs.

Taken together, the individual cards read: "I sent a photo to someone I trusted and now, thousands of people I don't know, know me."

The screen then fades to black as the society's main message appears: "There's no such thing as 'just one photo.' Protect yourself from sexual exploitation. Be safe online."

'This campaign is intended to raise awareness that, when you are online, there is no such thing as sharing just one photo.'

-- Diane Sowden, Children of the Street Society
The video was launched as part of B.C.'s annual STOP the Sexual Exploitation of Children and Youth Awareness Week. The poster girl appeared in ads at schools, in transit shelters, in restaurants and online.

The society describes the ad as "the story of a young girl who shared a private photo online with someone she trusted," and urges young people to wrap their heads around the "increasing power new technologies have in the distribution of potentially harmful content."

"This campaign is intended to raise awareness that, when you are online, there is no such thing as sharing just one photo," said Diane Sowden, Executive Director of Children of the Street Society.

"We continue to see an increase in requests from schools and community groups who are dealing with peer-to-peer exploitation such as 'sexting' or young people entering into unhealthy relationships with someone they've met online."

Difficult conversation

A recent high-profile example is that of B.C. teen Amanda Todd, a 15-year-old girl who committed suicide in early October. Todd was the victim of cyberstalking and cyberbullying for two years, and fell into a depression.

A video she posted to YouTube, in which she tells her story using cards, reached millions of people worldwide.

Todd's mother is among those who have called for parents to have non-judgmental conversations with their teens in the aftermath of her daughter's death.

"Listen with an open mind, because you will get a lot more information from your child. If you get angry, then go somewhere else [away from the child] and be angry. But at the time, try and stay calm, and try and help your child figure out the next step," she said in November.

Some observers have also pointed out that it's not always strangers or even trusted friends convincing teens to put suggestive pictures of themselves online.

'Telling kids that there's something else they're not supposed to do won't curb the dangers of sexting, because they're still going to do it.'

-- Hallae Khosravi, The Toronto Standard
Hallae Khosravi, an intern at The Toronto Standard, argues that perhaps the focus should be on how we think about expressions of sexuality in our highly connected society.

"[W]hat's really missing here is the fact that teenagers aren't going to stop sending naughty pictures anytime soon. We had it before the rise of smart phones and social media, and just as sex has never gone out of style, nor will the thrill of seeing and sending sexy pics," she wrote in an opinion piece inspired by the campaign.

"Telling kids that there's something else they're not supposed to do won't curb the dangers of sexting, because they're still going to do it. What needs to addressed is the aftermath of a shared sext, not the initial act," Khosravi argues.

In this context, some parents have taken to navigating the difficult waters of weighing in on sexting, and deciding how to guide their kids in circumstances that may be alien to them.

"Should you talk to your kid about sexting? If they use a phone or the Internet and are alive, the answer is an even more resounding 'yes' ... sexting isn't just about pubescent curiosity and lust; it's also about trust, commitment, self-image, and acceptance -- the timeless issues of our formative years, and topics on which you're surely by now an expert," added The Atlantic in an earlier editorial.

Have you broached this topic with a teenager in your life? Do you think there's such a thing as "safe sexting" -- or would you advise the young person to abstain entirely?

How do you think this conversation should be framed?

Tags: B.C., Canada

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