By Logan Schlossberg
Ashlee, a student at the University of Kansas, was sending a nude photo of her entire body via Snapchat to her boyfriend while he was out of town. She accidentally put the photo on her “Snapchat Story” which is a public photo and video collage that disappears in 24 hours. The photo was up for about 15 minutes until she realized her mistake and deleted it.
“I was mortified to say the least,” she says.
According to a study by the University of Rhode Island, almost all college students are sexting.
“I don’t think sending nude photos is a new phenomena but the technology we have today makes this ability easier and unfortunately some of the technology can give you a delusion of safety,” says Jonathan Peters, journalism professor at KU. “You just aren’t as safe as you think you are.”
When a nude photo is sent through Snapchat or even an iMessage/SMS text message, that photo is archived somewhere. According to Peters, with Snapchat it is saved on a server, and through text messages it is saved somewhere within your phone carrier. So when you think your photo disappears on Snapchat, it really does not.
“I think it’s really common for a college kid to think their risqué picture is actually disappearing when they send it to someone on Snapchat,” says Theresa Murphy, a senior from Kansas City. “This is why I don’t send nude pictures. It seems too risky.”
Cell phones are not the only technological devices to worry about when it comes to nude pictures. Cyber security is not as secure as one might think. Now that we have things like iCloud and Dropbox, nude photos can be saved into hard drives on computers that people do not even know about.
“Say you took a nude video or photo on your MacBookPro and you want to delete it off of your computer,” Peters says. “That video still exists on your hard drive even when you drag it to ‘trash’ and then click ‘clear trash’. When you delete, the file itself doesn’t go away until you overwrite that same file up to 30 to 40 times with a different file.”
With safety issues in the technological aspect of sexting, experts find that, in terms of sexual health, there is no correlation between risky sexual behavior and sexting. It can, however, become a problem if your nude photos are leaked. This is where getting a job could become harder if potential employers see or find out about the photos.
Even issues with mental health can come into play.
“Taking a photo for yourself or for your partner is done intentionally, with you setting the parameters for how that photo or photos are going to be used,” Jenny McKee, health educator at the University of Kansas, says. “When those photos are in the wrong hands, it can cause a great deal of stress and anxiety. It can also cause a great deal of shame and self-blame.”
Bottom line: college students probably aren’t going to stop sexting. If you choose to do so, consider the following:
-Do not put your face in the photo
-Omit added features on your body like tattoos or piercings
-Do not take the photo with a background that is recognizable
-Make sure you are sending the photo to the correct person
Photos by Abby Liudahl