Secondary Sexting: A Restorative Framework for Understanding and Addressing the Harms of Sexting Behaviour among Secondary School Students
In New Zealand there is a growing concern over the engagement of teenagers in sexting, especially so-called ‘secondary sexting’, the non-consensual distribution of intimate images. This thesis aims to analyse the behaviour of sexting through a restorative lens and to outline the role of restorative responses can make in a New Zealand context. It combines a review of international literature on the subject with a pilot study of senior students at a New Zealand secondary school, a school that has deemed itself to be a “restorative school”. The empirical study employs a mixed-methods approach. The quantitative phase involved students (n=125) in Year 11 -13 completing a survey to ascertain the prevalence of sexing and their attitudes towards criminalization of different types of sexting. The qualitative phase involved focus groups with students (n=13), one-on-one interviews with staff (n=7) and parents (n=17) discussing how they would respond to a hypothetical scenario of secondary sexting. The study finds that although only a small percentage of students engaged in secondary sexting, secondary sexting is the cause of significant harm and there is need for an effective response. This thesis argues that restorative response has the most promise at addressing these harms. It also shows that applying a restorative framework to the analysis of the practice enables us to identify and challenge victim blaming tendencies in both popular opinion and official responses. It proposes that for New Zealand to adequately respond to sexting there needs to be a shift away from viewing secondary sexting as a result of poor choices to one that focuses on respectful relationships and the obligations that go with them.