'You never think they'll have that picture for life'
Published 30/11/2012 | 06:00
Dublin student Gary Gaughan (18, pictured left) knows firsthand what it's like to send an intimate sext – and wish he hadn't.
He says: "I don't think any teenager could truly say they'd never taken any part in sexting, as much as they may deny it.
"When I was younger, I sent an intimate picture of myself to someone. It was just something flirtatious, it was about three years ago and smartphones had just come out, a lot of people were maturing alongside new technology.
"I sent it and I've had them sent to me, but my attitude was always if something was sent to me I wouldn't go broadcasting it, it was only meant for me to see.
"Unfortunately friends messing took the phone off the person I'd sent my photo to and went through their messages. They didn't mean any harm, but they saw the picture and soon it was public knowledge.
"The only thing I could do was say 'yeah, I sent it'. I knew there was nothing I could do and if I acted bothered I'd only get more hassle.
"Things were difficult for a year or so but we're all older now and over it. I don't know if it was ever deleted but, with people changing their phones, I don't really feel it'll come back to haunt me – I'm not on bad terms with the person I sent it to.
"I think when you're younger you don't really think about the consequences, you think it's just being sent to that one person and that's the only person who's going to see it.
"You never think that they'll have that image for life, they could keep it for 20 years and ruin your career.
"I think sexting is something younger teens do – I'd never dream of doing it now and I laugh about what a tool I was to send it – because they're experimenting and there's maybe a certain amount of naivety there.
"It's hard for older people to understand because they didn't grow up with the technology to do it. It's so easy and so accessible.
'It's also more acceptable to promote a provocative image today. Young people look at hotshot celebrities and think if it's okay for them why can't I?
"Some papers promote family toys on the front page and topless women inside – the message is 'that's okay'.
"There's also something about the phone that makes it feel harmless. I know a girl who allowed a guy to film her doing something really intimate and after they broke up he showed people the video.
"It was a huge embarrassment to her and when I heard what had happened I wondered why she'd let him film her. But I don't think she thought of the consequences because it was just on his phone."