This report provides a children’s rights-based analysis and evaluation of the current criminal laws that can apply to peer-to-peer sexting and cyber bullying among young people in New South Wales (NSW). It offers insight on sexting and cyber bullying that we have garnered from our work as youth legal educators and advocates; examines the criminal law framework that applies to these behaviours in NSW; explains the need to reform these laws; surveys the views of young people on sexting, cyber bullying and the law; reviews some of the law reform efforts undertaken in other Australian and overseas jurisdictions; and on these bases, makes recommendations for law and policy makers in NSW.
The New Voices/New Laws project grew out of our concern that young people’s use of social media, mobile phones and the internet can lead to serious and often disproportionate criminal penalties—of which most young people (and many adults) are unaware. The project aimed to:
• educate young people about the criminal laws that can apply to sexting and cyber bullying;
• encourage young people to voice their opinions on these laws;
• amplify the voices and opinions of young people; and
• facilitate advocacy for reform of inappropriate criminal laws and penalties.
In order to achieve these aims, we engaged directly with over 1,000 young people through school-based consultations. Between June and October 2012, we conducted 10 consultations at 8 schools in 7 regions—Wollongong, Dubbo, Sydney, Hunter, Tamworth, Broken Hill and Albury. The consultations generally consisted of a presentation on the laws and penalties that can apply to sexting and cyber bullying; a survey asking participants to share their knowledge and opinions of these laws and penalties; and a focus group discussion of the issues. The presentation and survey were also made available online.
The report is the outcome of New Voices/New Laws, a project undertaken by the National Children’s and Youth Law Centre (NCYLC) and Children’s Legal Service of Legal Aid NSW (CLS).