Young people engaging in risky behaviours such as sexting may experience anxiety as Covid-19 restrictions ease and they begin to socialise again, the National Youth Council of Ireland has warned.
In a bid to get young people talking about sexting — sending, receiving, or forwarding sexually explicit messages, photographs, or images on digital devices — the NYCI is launching new guidance and resources today.
The Let's Talk About Sexting toolkit was developed by the NYCI that represents more than 380,000 young people with support from An Garda Síochana.
NYCI national youth health programme manager, Rachael Treanor, said online communication became the main source of interaction and connection for young people with significant people in their lives because of the restrictive measures:
And with this reliance on the online world, there is a possibility young people could engage in risky behaviours such as sexting.
“As restrictions begin to ease over the coming months, and young people begin to attend youth clubs and meet friends, some will experience anxiety due to risky sexual behaviours which they may have engaged in during the Covid-19 restrictions.
“Romantic relationships comprise of intimacy, physicality, emotions, and the overall experience of being close to another. However, for all of us, regardless of our stage of life, our relationships have changed during Covid-19."
She referred to a recent report from the European Union Agency for Law Enforcement Cooperation (Europol) warning that activity around the distribution of child sexual exploitation material online appears to be on the increase:
“This reflects what we are hearing anecdotally across our networks regarding a potential increase in risky behaviours and means that young people may be more vulnerable online during the pandemic."
“As restrictions ease, NYCI’s National Youth Health Programme will be working with youth workers to support young people to look after their sexual health and build healthy relationships as we enter into a new normal," Ms Treanor continued.
“We want to continue to support youth workers help young people build their communication skills and confidence around their sexual health.
This toolkit ‘Let’s Talk about Sexting’ is a starting point for youth workers to engage in that conversation.