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Naked Snapchat video and sexual selfies: Welcome to the new frontier of bullying

‘Snapchat’ – it sounds so harmless. Those two syllables denote a world of cute mouse ears, rainbow symbols and facial distortion filters that burst onto our smartphones as messages for a matter of seconds, before disappearing forever. The app now seems to be as common among 50-somethings as millennials (judging from my friends’ parents who have just discovered the #LOL filters).

The frontier of bullying has been changing for years. For my generation (twenty-something millennials) cyber-bullying started on AOL dial-up via MSN messenger. In the last social media – from Facebook and WhatsApp to more niche sites, popular with teens, like .

Cyber-bullying can look like trolling: being excluded from online groups; a refusal to ‘like’ a picture; ironic ‘likes’ on a picture; body-shaming; slut-shaming – you name it. It’s all-encompassing and when it comes to teen girls, a lot of is focused on their bodies.

Teen girls have told me stories of being tricked into sending ‘nudes’ (either topless or vaginal) to the school ‘mean girls’ on Snapchat, or to boys they fancied – who then spread them around. The consequences of this are horrific.

These girls are essentially victims of revenge porn – but as UK law only recognises this as a crime that affects over 18s, they cannot take legal action unless they go after perpetrators for child porn. And if a girl (or boy) sent the nude themselves, this could result in her also facing legal sanctions.

This legal and emotional minefield can result in self-harm, mental illness and – as in one tragic case, in Florida last week – death.

But that – the consensual sending of sexual messages between teens who fancy one another – is by no means the biggest danger

Tovonna’s aunt Angel Scott told WFLA-TV: “Everybody was out there talking about her and calling her names and they said it went up on social media, Snapchat.”

The police are looking into it but say they have no evidence that she was being bullied, and do not know if she consented to being filmed nude in the shower.

But that shouldn’t matter. What seems to be clear is that Tovonna did not want the video to be shared on Snapchat. She was being ‘called names’ and ‘talked about’ as a result of it. That is not something any teen girl opts into, and to me it just proves she was being bullied.

Her mum agrees saying that bullying had occurred in the past, and her friends are now using the hashtag #StopBullying to spread the message.

That’s when alarm bells start ringing – mainly for parents and teachers, often at a loss to know how to stop kids exploring their sexuality on social media

Bullying no longer looks like it used to and it certainly isn’t restricted to the playground. It is complex, subtle and incredibly cruel.

Teens nowadays know that what hurts more than a physical punch, is social humiliation. The shame of having your lunch money stolen used to face and bullies weren’t there 24/7. But cyber-bullying is different. A Snapchat message or video can be captured in a screenshot and remain for ever. Photos can circulate the web for life.

Slut-shaming online is the new frontier of bullying, and it’s about time we called it that. Sharing a nude video without someone’s permission is not ‘a bit of a laugh’ or #awks. And, in the UK, if those involved are over 18 they could be sent to jail. It’s that serious.

The US doesn’t yet have the same laws – but that doesn’t matter. We need to still label these incidents as ‘revenge porn’ and recognise them as bullying. Only then when we give it the right name can we begin to deal with it properly and make sure no other teen has to suffer in this way ever again.