Survey shows practice of sending sexually explicit images via mobile phones is commonplace among teenagers.
Most teenagers reject the notion that young people need more advice and support in relation to the habit.
These findings, which come from a survey conducted by South West Grid for Learning and the University of Plymouth (full details at end), will horrify many teachers, parents, police, and virtually everyone else who deals with young people.
Among the main findings are the fact that around 40% of respondents say that they know
friends who have been involved in sexting. Over a quarter (27%) of respondents said that sexting happens regularly or all of the time.
Over half (56%) of respondents were aware of instances where images and videos were
distributed further than the intended recipient, but only 23% believe this distribution is intended to cause upset.
Put another way – the majority of respondents knew that these images and videos were sent on beyond the people for whom they were intended.
And yet, despite 30% of young people knowing someone who had been adversely affected by sexting, only a minority (27%) believe that young people need more support and advice related to the issue.
The survey clearly shows a population fully aware of the concept of sexting and a
significant subset who are actively engaged in the practice. It is also a closed community. 70% said they would turn to their friends if they were affected by issues related to sexting. Only around a quarter (24%) of young people would turn to a teacher for help if they were affected by issues related to sexting.
Andy Phippen of Plymouth University says, “Our research shows that this is a significantly larger problem than we had first imagined. What is also clear is that such practices lead to a desensitization of young people to issues of intimacy. We would strongly support the SWGfL’s call for wider awareness and education initiatives to bring this issue out of hiding.”
As David Wright of SWGfL says, “What is particularly worrying is the somewhat blasé attitude to the subject. Only a minority of respondents believe that the extended distribution of explicit images of an individual is done to cause upset, and few feel that young people need further support in this area.”
It is immediately apparent that such practices are cause for concern. It shows a
population who are unconcerned about intimacy or privacy yet are ill-equipped to
understand the implications of their actions. Given that there is evidence that sexting
forms part of a wider on-line relationship which young people have with each other,
it is clear that schools and other bodies need to incorporate sexting within the wider eSafety education practice.
“But the approach taken in raising awareness of issues needs careful consideration,” warns David Wright of SWGfL who organized the survey. “Our data shows that young people are unlikely to turn to teachers for help directly, so we would suggest that sexting awareness be adopted into wider peer-education schemes if they are to achieve high levels of success.”
Full details of this report can be found at:
The research was undertaken from September – November 2009. The South West Grid for Learning (the government funded trust that provides internet connection to over 2400 schools in the south west of England) undertook research in partnership with the Centre for Security, Communications and Networks Research, University of Plymouth, to better understand the ways young people from 11 to 18 use mobile and Internet technology to share files among friends.
In particular the research focused upon the practice of “sexting” – the sharing of
explicit images electronically. The research was conducted using an on-line survey disseminated to schools across the South West of the UK. The survey aimed to inform understanding about image and video sharing among young people and to contribute to improving measures for protecting individuals from the harm that can occur as a result of such practices.
The survey was conducted among students from year 9 to year 13. 18 schools have participated in the survey with 535 respondents to date. The survey is continuing.