Thu. Dec 3rd, 2020

One in five teenagers who 'sext' say they were coerced into it

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One in five teenagers who have sent nude or explicit ‘sexts’ say they were coerced or blackmailed into it

  • Researchers surveyed 6,045 young people about sexting and relationships
  • They found the pressure to send intimate images increases as children get older
  • Significant numbers of teens had their images shared further without consent
  • Furthermore, 14 per cent of those polled felt pressured to send further images
  • However, nearly 4-in-10 of those young people who sent sexts did so voluntarily 

Around one in five teenagers who have sent nude or explicit ‘sexts’ say that they were coerced or blackmailed into it, a survey has reported.

Research by the UK nonprofit Internet Matters and the Youthworks charity found that the pressure to send intimate images appears to increase as children get older.

Polling found that while 15 per cent of 13-year-olds had felt pressure to sext, such rose to 17 per cent of 14-year-olds and 23 per cent of those aged 15 and above.

The study also found that 17 per cent of those surveyed had images shared without their consent and 14 per cent experienced harassment because of their sexts.

Meanwhile, 14 per cent reported that they received either pressure or threats to send additional images.

However, the investigation also found that many children sexted simply because they wanted to — with 38 per cent doing it as part of a relationship

Meanwhile, just under a third reported trying it ‘for fun’.

Around one in five teenagers who have sent nude or explicit ‘sexts’ say that they were coerced or blackmailed into it. Research by the UK nonprofit Internet Matters and the Youthworks charity found the pressure to send intimate images appears to increase as children get older

‘Young people may think “sending nudes” is harmless; however, it’s essential we look at the reasons why children send explicit images and what purpose they feel it serves,’ said psychologist and Internet Matters ambassador Linda Papadopoulos.

‘Fundamentally, children are sending images because “they want to”,’ she added.

‘Addressing the reasons why they want to — as part of a bigger conversation at home and with professionals — will lower the chances of children facing potentially damaging consequences.’

Those who experience vulnerabilities such as mental health issues are twice as likely to be sharing nude images, the researchers concluded.

After polling 6,045 young people about sexting, relationships and meet-ups, the research indicated that boys are marginally more likely to share images than girls — at seven, rather than six, per cent of those surveyed.

In addition, boys were found to be the most likely to consider sexting as an expected part of being in a relationship (at 35 per cent of those polled), while 41 per cent of girls said ‘I was in a relationship and I wanted to.’

Meanwhile, those who did not want to state their gender — accounting for 6 per cent of those polled  — were the most likely to send explicit images, at 15 per cent. 

Boys were found to be the most likely to consider sexting as an expected part of being in a relationship (at 35 per cent of those polled), while 41 per cent of girls said ‘I was in a relationship and I wanted to’

‘For children who send images and face consequences, the effects can be devastating and can potentially lead to long-term damage to their emotional wellbeing,’ said Internet Matters chief executive Carolyn Bunting.

‘As society’s most vulnerable are disproportionately likely to send images, it’s crucial young people experiencing vulnerabilities are being fully supported.’

Parents, she added, need to ‘understand the pressures to send images that some of these children face.’

TOP TEN TIPS FOR SEXTING TEENS 

Professors Hinduja and Patchin have compiled ten top tips that adults can share with adolescents — after weighing their level of development and sexual maturity — to mitigate potential fallout should they sext. 

The researchers caution, however, that — just like sex itself — sexting can never be considered 100 per cent safe. 

‘Although it would no doubt be safer if minors did not engage in sexting at all, we know that some will participate; indeed, our data suggest that those numbers are increasing,’ the researchers wrote in their paper.

1. DON’T SHARE SEXTS AROUND

Forwarding or showing sexts to third parties could be considered as the nonconsensual sharing of pornography, which is prohibited by law and carries serious penalties — especially when involving images of minors.

‘In 2015, for example, a North Carolina teen was charged with possessing child pornography, although the image on his phone was of himself,’ the researchers said. 

2. ONLY SEXT PEOPLE YOU TRUST AND BEWARE ‘CATFISHING’

The researchers advise only sexting people you know and fully trust. 

‘Catfishing’ — the practice of pretending to be someone else for the purposes of luring someone into a fraudulent relationship or to acquire sexts — is more common than typically thought, they warn.

3. GET CONSENT FIRST

The sending of unsolicited explicit images or video could potentially lead to criminal charges.

4. SEND SUGGESTIVE ‘BOUDOIR PICTURES’, NOT NUDES 

Boudoir is a style of photography that employs suggestion, rather that the use of explicit imagery. 

‘Instead of nudes, send photos that strategically cover the most private of private parts,’ the researchers suggest.

‘They can still be intimate and flirty but lack the obvious nudity that could get you in trouble.’ 

5. NEVER INCLUDE YOUR FACE 

Cropping one’s face out of photos or video prevents one being immediately identifiable in sexts.

However, it also stops the sophisticated facial recognition algorithms built in to many social media sites from automatically tagging you should your private images/recordings end up being uploaded to them.

‘Instead of nudes, send photos that strategically cover the most private of private parts,’ the researchers suggest. ‘They can still be intimate and flirty but lack the obvious nudity [pictured] that could get you in trouble’

6. MAKE SURE YOU CANNOT BE IDENTIFIED

Beware including in sexts any identifiable tattoos, birthmarks, scars, jewellery or background items — like wall art or recognisable locations — that could allow people to associate you with your sexts.

7. TURN OFF METADATA

Be aware that some camera devices automatically embed your location, username, etc. into your photographs — whereas social media apps can add your location to such automatically. It is prudent to check all settings.

8. IF SEXTORTED, COLLECT EVIDENCE

‘If you are being pressured or threatened to send nude photos, collect evidence when possible,’ the researchers advise.

‘Having digital evidence of any maliciousness or threats of sextortion will help law enforcement in their investigation and prosecution (if necessary) and social media sites in their flagging and deletion of accounts.’

Such evidence could come in the form of screenshots of text messages.

9. USE EPHEMERAL MESSAGING APPS

Some apps — like Snapchat — offer so-called ‘ephemeral messages’ that automatically and securely self-destruct after a set time has elapsed.

‘You can never guarantee that a screenshot was not taken, nor that another device was not used to capture the image without you being notified,’ the researchers conceded.

‘But using specialised apps can decrease the chance of distribution.’

10. DON’T KEEP NUDE PHOTOS

Explicit photos and videos — of oneself of others — should be promptly deleted, the researchers recommend. This decreases the risk that a third party — such as a parent, hacker or police officer — will see them.

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