The pandemic has increased the situation of social isolation of human beings, social by nature. For this reason, we have needed to resort to the massive use of social networks and the internet to be able to maintain our basic needs for affiliation and socialization .
Although this fact appears to be positive, technologies carry risks that can seriously affect us. That is why it is important to know exactly which social media users are facing during this exceptional health crisis.
To answer this question, we must ask ourselves another: what are young people using social networks and the internet for? A study that we conducted during the quarantine situation, still unpublished, indicates that 26.5% of those surveyed have sent sensual photos through instant messaging applications or social networks in those months.
Likewise, 35.7% have consumed pornography through the internet. In addition, 28.6% have downloaded dating applications during this health crisis situation. The question we ask ourselves at this point is: what crimes or risks is this situation generating?
First of all, we have to know how the use of social networks or electronic devices for sexual purposes does not carry a risk in itself. In fact, we must understand that adolescents interact with their peers through technology, especially in this situation of health crisis that we are experiencing.
Therefore, their sexual relationships have also been transferred to the virtual world. In this sense, the consensual sending of images or videos with sexual content does not have to be a danger. But so that this practice does not involve serious risks, it should be carried out following a first basic recommendation: do not send content in which the identity of the person can be recognized.
On the other hand, if the practice of sexting – understood as sexual material sent voluntarily – is carried out in an unsafe way, it can lead to serious consequences. One of them could be sextortion , defined as the extortion of another person based on the possession of intimate or sexual material.
This fact makes the victim of blackmail feel that their photographs can be sent to other people and suffer great humiliation. Therefore, the feeling of fear, helplessness and hopelessness generated can lead to sending photographs with increasingly explicit content, even being pressured to have sexual relations.
Another risk is the sending of material of this type to the couple or friends, since we think they are for life. The problem in this case occurs when these relationships are broken and revenge begins. At this time is when this material is usually used to denigrate and humiliate the ex-partner .
Sexting and cyberbullying
For this reason, on many occasions the practice of sexting tends to become a cyberbullying situation , promoting public humiliation and devastating consequences, such as suicide .
We can think of this type of behavior that they affect boys and girls in the same way, but they do not. In fact, when a sexual image of a girl is spread it often has a negative impact on her social reputation. On the other hand, if this content belongs to a boy, it usually has a positive impact on his reputation. Thus, gender stereotypes are still in force in our society and continue to promote serious psychosocial consequences for women.
Second, the lack of sexual education is leading adolescents to form their sexual ideology through the consumption of the material they view on social networks. Consequently, the increase in the consumption of pornography is leading to distorted ideas about sexuality. In this way, adolescents are seeing violent sexual practices as their sexual fantasies.
Boys, girls and sexual socialization
In addition, studies have observed differences between the sexual socialization of girls and boys, both having different and opposite sexual fantasies. On the other hand, the association of the submissive role of some women in sex often makes them accept those sexual fantasies of boys that do not generate pleasure. In this way, we once again observe in pornography the reproduction of gender stereotypes that exist in our society.
Taking into account all these aspects, the prevention of this type of behavior must be a priority in order to mitigate the devastating consequences generated by these behaviors. For this, sexual education programs and prevention of risk behaviors must be generated through social networks from a gender perspective.
In these times in which relationships through social networks have been strengthened very intensely due to the pandemic, it is necessary for families to exercise extreme vigilance over young people to avoid unnecessary risks.
Author Bios: Christian Moreno Lara is International Academic Manager and Director of the Legal Area of the International University of Valencia and Laura Carrascosa Iranzo is Coordinator of the Master’s Degree in Criminology: Crime and Victimology both at the International University of Valencia