Such activity poses a growing danger of cyber-bullying — defamation, harassment and coercion of individuals, the Pro Juvente group says.
As part of its campaign, the group is using billboard posters showing nude teens posing for photos with a message that tells adolescents where they can find more information about the issue and where to get help.
Sexting, a word derived from the English words “sex” and “texting”, is “one of the most serious forms of cyber-bullying”, says psychologist Urs Kiener, who is chief of the project for Pro Juvente.
Intimate photos are emailed to another person or group and can then be made public via social media.
“In this context, young people let themselves sometimes be influenced unconsciously by a group dynamic, (and can be ) even put under pressure,” Pro Juvente says on its website.
Another danger is from unknown adults who make contact with adolescents during internet “chats” and seek intimate photos.
Once these are obtained, an adult can then try to blackmail the young person into doing something by threatening to circulate the photos on the internet.
Sexting can be harmful and lead young people to even commit suicide, Pro Juvente says.
Yet the the subject is rarely discussed among families if ever, according to a survey by the gfk polling institute that showed seven out of ten Swiss young people don’t talk about it with their parents or even with their friends.
According to a recent study, six percent of Swiss adolescents interviewed said they had transmitted to the internet by smartphone erotic photos or videos they produced.
Yet 80 percent of people surveyed in Switzerland said they did not know what sexting was, Pro Juvente notes.
It is important that adolescents, parents and teaching personnel are conscious of the risks and know where to find help in such cases, the group says.
It underlines that the abuse of intimate photos can have serious consequences both for the person photographed and the individual responsible for the abuse.
The non-profit group, which is using TV ads to promote its campaign, offers a help line, 147, and provides advice on its website.
It also highlights an app that allows teens to submit their Facebook profile to a “cyber-risk” test.
Adolescents and parents can find out more information (in German, French and Italian only) on the subject at www.projuvente.ch/sexting
Pro juvente is distributing educational materials to Swiss schools and provides further information online through its forum, www.147.ch