ZICTA talks about sexting

IN THE recent past, there has been a lot of talk about transmission of inappropriate material through the use of ICT gadgets, particularly by the youth. There has been a lot of debate on the issue particularly on the ZICTA Facebook page. Today, this column looks at the issue of sexting.
The information superhighway is vastly changing and the internet is revolutionising the way we communicate with each other, with today’s teenagers and young adults being some of the first to experiment with modern technology.
However, this positive and educationally beneficial ICT revolution comes with challenges – the danger of being abused and utilised to share information which contributes towards corrupting the morals of the youth.
This is so real and currently, the most common abuse of ICTs is through what has commonly become known as sexting – sending sexually explicit messages via SMS and is usually done using mobile phones.
To some ICT service users, it may be exciting and exhilarating to send, receive, or forward sexual photos or sexually suggestive messages through text messages or email. However, sending pornographic material such as videos to friends is not only immoral but it is illegal. The ICT Act prohibits this and can be enforced to arrest perpetrators who when found guilty can be jailed for up to 10 years.
The consequences of sexting can be severe, ranging from embarrassment to imprisonment. It does not matter whether or not there was full consent between the parties involved – it is still a criminal offence according to the Zambian law.
It is paramount for every ICT user to bear in mind that once they send out a video or picture of themselves or other people, they have no power over it. They cannot control how far it goes and what is done to that material once it is shared. This inevitably leads to the tarnishing of one’s digital reputation.
It is important for ICT users to realise that issues of sexting are deeper than most people think. For example, it has become common phenomenon the world over, for employers today  to look through their potential employees’ Facebook pages before deciding on whether they give them the job or not. The digital reputation of a person can determine their future job prospects in every area of their lives.
Explicit photos or videos forwarded from person to person can cause embarrassment for the original sender. Many people do not realise that once they hit “send” control of who else sees that compromising photo is now completely up to the recipient.
Sexting pictures can be used as blackmail, or even shared while still in a relationship. With more and more teens having internet exposure, parents, guardians, churches, schools, community members and others need to be more vigilant in educating our youth about the hidden dangers of misusing the internet.
We urge everyone involved in sexting, to refrain from doing so and to encourage other practitioners to also stop.
It is important that we recognise the fact that with the advancement of technology, people especially teens have become more tech-savvy, they are going to experiment and make some mistakes. Unfortunately, what may seem like fun for now may be one of their most regrettable moments in the future. Reputations have been destroyed and lives have been altered due to a single sext.
It is astonishing that one picture, which takes less than a few seconds to take, holds the power to change a person’s life. One picture, one moment in time, too many consequences. It is just not worth it. In accordance with our mandate, ZICTA will continue to sensitise the public especially the youth. In the next month, ZICTA will embark on an awareness campaign in tertiary institutions to discuss this matter with young adults with the view of getting feedback on how best the problem can be effectively addressed.

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