Sharing of indecent photographs among children through mobile phones and other social media, known as sexting, although illegal is a phenomenon occurring among children and adolescents. This emerged in a conference organised by the Lisa Marie Foundation, which tackled the use and abuse of digital technology.
The Appoġġ Agency receives a new report every week about the dissemination of indecent material involving minors who expose themselves to others through indecent photographs. Mrs Deborah Vassallo from the Appoġġ Agency explained that dissemination of indecent photographs among minors is a real problem in Malta.
“We call it sexting. When you have photographs which are shared on mobile phones and a boy or girl sends these, generally to another boy, this means you have sharing between two minors who are exposing themselves in their underwear or unclothed. When you have photographs like these being shared online and created online, you have a situation which is illegal, as we have a law against this abuse being carried out or shared.”
During the conference organised by the Lisa Marie Foundation, various academics and professionals discussed the use of technology within the education system. The possibility was discussed, among others, of artificial intelligence being integrated into the education system. Leonard Busuttil from the University’s Faculty of Education stressed on the need to avoid obstructing technological advances. Education Minister Evarist Bartolo stated that the human element is having a bad effect on the use of technology.
Mrs Vassallo stated that the Appoġġ Agency does its utmost, with the assistance of social media companies, to try and stop the spread of these photographs when it becomes aware of it. She added that it is important for children to be taught from a young age about responsible use of technology.
“It is always important to raise awareness in children, that when one is sending something, one should imagine oneself on a billboard in full view of everyone, and the possibility exists of these photographs being saved and released again years later.
Mrs Vassallo appealed to victims of this abuse to speak up, even if they have submitted indecent photographs of themselves. She added that victims of this abuse can contact the Appoġġ Agency on the 147 helpline, and even anonymously online.