There’s a lot that can go wrong when you take naked or revealing photos of yourself and send them to other people, or send someone else’s naked photo to another person. Apart from anything else, if the images are of someone under 18, it is illegal.

And yet many young Australians sext or send nudes. According to a 2021 report, 70% of surveyed teenagers had sent sexually explicit text messages, and more than 80% had received them.

New research explores teenagers’ experiences with sexting and sext education, using interviews with 30 young Australians.

While parents’ and teachers’ natural response to teenagers sexting might be “don’t do it”, young people say this doesn’t work. Or as one interviewee noted, “it just sort of goes in one ear and out the other”.

This is why researchers Giselle Natassia Woodley and Lelia Green say schools need to develop more sophisticated messages about sexting. “Pretending sexting won’t or shouldn’t happen because it is illegal is like pretending no one under 16 has sex […] We don’t pretend these behaviours don’t exist: we educate for harm minimisation around them,” they write.

They also stress the importance of young people knowing they can talk about anything with the adults in their life – and if something goes wrong, they will not be punished. “Above all, maintaining an open dialogue and a shame-free stance will allow young people to feel safe to discuss anything.”

Judith Ireland

Education Editor

We teach school kids about safe sex. We need to teach safe sexting too

Giselle Natassia Woodley, Edith Cowan University; Lelia Green, Edith Cowan University

New research shows how current messages to ‘simply avoid’ sexting do not work for young people.

Grattan on Friday: Like Peter Dutton, John Gorton once had a nuclear plan. It didn’t end well

Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

Like former Liberal prime minister John Gorton, Peter Dutton has become as convinced as his predecessor about the nuclear path. But can Dutton succeed where Gorton failed?

Release of ‘missing papers’ from 2003 shines a light on how Australian troops were sent to fight the Iraq War

David Lee, UNSW Sydney

New papers released by the National Archives of Australia reveal how the decision was made for Australia to join the US’s “coalition of the willing”.

Should you be concerned about flying on Boeing planes?

Doug Drury, CQUniversity Australia

The American aerospace company Boeing has been synonymous with safe air travel for decades, but recent weeks have seen it plagued by a series of issues.

Undernourished, stressed and overworked: cost-of-living pressures are taking a toll on Australians’ health

Nicole Black, Monash University; Anthony Harris, Monash University; Danusha Jayawardana, Monash University; David Johnston, Monash University

Despite signs that inflation is levelling off, Australians could feel the health impacts of high prices for a long time.

Is meth use really going up? Let’s look at the evidence behind the latest scary headlines

Nicole Lee, Curtin University

One report says methamphetamine use is rising. Another says it’s falling. So what’s going on?

Could ADHD drugs reduce the risk of early death? Unpacking the findings from a new Swedish study

Hassan Vally, Deakin University

The study found people with ADHD who took medication had a lower risk of dying from unnatural causes than those with ADHD who were not taking medication.

‘I’m home’: how co-operative housing could take pressure off Australia’s housing crisis

Louise Crabtree-Hayes, Western Sydney University

Co-operatives make up only a small part of Australia’s accommodation stock but their users say the benefits warrant it being considered as a way of easing the housing crisis.

Meet the kowari: a pint-sized predator on the fast track to extinction

Katherine Moseby, UNSW Sydney; Katherine Tuft, University of Adelaide

Blink and you’ll miss it. The kowari is a charismatic marsupial carnivore that needs our help.

Friday essay: from political bees to talking pigs – how ancient thinkers saw the human-animal divide

Julia Kindt, University of Sydney

What makes us human? Greek and Roman thinkers were preoccupied with this question. And some of their observations of animals foreshadowed recent findings in the behavioural sciences.

The Jacqui Lambie Network is the latest victim of ‘cybersquatting’. It’s the tip of the iceberg of negative political ads online

Andrew Hughes, Australian National University

As political parties desperately battle for voters’ attention, cybersquatting is one of many online tools in the toolkit. It’s only effective at further diminishing trust in government.

What washing machine settings can I use to make my clothes last longer?

Alessandra Sutti, Deakin University; Amol Patil, Deakin University; Maryam Naebe, Deakin University

Next time you do your laundry, think like an astronaut – wash your clothes as little as possible.

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