Teen sexting a growing trend, say UWA medical students

Dr YES participants Ian Marley, Sophie Wiegele and Mark Chia.
Dr YES participants Ian Marley, Sophie Wiegele and Mark Chia.

Established by the Australian Medical Association WA and run by University of WA medical students, Dr YES visits local and rural high schools to help students be more proactive about their health.

‘The greatest advantage to the program is that we are only a few years older, so the kids see us as their peers,’ said Dr YES project co-ordinator and third-year medical student Ian Marley.

‘They’re more willing to open up and disclose things they might not with a teacher 30 years their senior ” which is how we picked up on the growing trend with sexting,’ he said.

The 21-year-old said technology was changing at a much faster pace than health promotion could keep up with.

‘Most kids are going along with sexting because it’s what everyone else is doing and they don’t stop to think about the far-reaching implications,’ he said.

‘They may intend the photo to only be seen by one person, but it can very quickly and easily be spread around the entire school.

‘The big issue then is fallout such as bullying and social alienation.’

Dr YES project co-ordinator Mark Chia (20) said the mobile app Snapchat, which allows users to send a photo or video message that deletes after a maximum of 10 seconds, was being used as a ‘judgment-free’ tool for inappropriate material.

‘There is a lot of misinformation going around that Snapchat and photo-sharing apps are safe and secure, which they have been proven not to be,’ Mr Chia said.

Because of internet access, social networking, TV and porn, Dr YES project co-ordinator Sophie Wiegele (20) said children were far more aware of sex today than 10 to 15 years ago.

‘Because kids are exposed to sex at an early age, they are becoming sexually confident earlier,’ Ms Wiegele said.