herald

Friday 15 December 2017

Children now see 'sexting' as normal - shock new study

Children now see "sexting" as part of normal life with girls more likely to provide sexually explicit pictures of themselves through social media Smartphone apps, according to an anti-bullying report.

Instances of abuse and sexting, where explicit texts and pictures are sent between smartphone devices, are on the rise and are having a serious detrimental effect on the health and wellbeing of young people, Brighton-based charity Ditch the Label has claimed.

The national anti-bullying organisation surveyed 2,732 people aged between 13 and 25 and had published the findings in its Wireless Report.

The survey revealed that 62pc of young people had been abused through a Smartphone app, while 37pc had sent a naked photo of themselves, and 24pc had seen that image shared without their consent.

Girls were twice as likely to send a naked photo to someone than boys, the report said.

While 49pc of those questioned said they believed sexting was just a bit of harmless fun and 16pc said it was "the normal thing to do", 13pc of young people claimed they had felt pressurised into sending explicit pictures.

Chloe (17), who did not want to give her surname for fear of reprisals, said she fell into a deep depression after sending a naked photo of herself to a boy she trusted, only to find he had uploaded it to Facebook.

The teenager was being bullied at school three years ago and thought that by becoming friends with the boy the bullying would stop.

She claims he spent three or four months asking for her to send him a naked "selfie" and that she eventually relented under the pressure.

The next day she saw the picture had been uploaded to Facebook and many pupils at her school had seen it.

She said: "He said it served me right. It had a lot of repercussions for me and I fell into a severe depression.

SUICIDE

"I tried to commit suicide a few times. It was really tough.

"I didn't let my dad know because it would have broken his heart. My mum was angry with me but there was nothing she could do but support me."

Chloe said she contacted Facebook but it took at least two days for the image to come down, by which time the damage had already been done.

She eventually "got her own back" on the boy by posting a message online about what he had done to her and how he had pressurised her into it. She believes social networking sites need to do more to protect young people and clamp down on sexual images online.

She said: "It has changed me for the better and I would never think of sending anything to anyone again because it could always be used against you in the future.

"If I could go back, I would tell myself no matter how bad things are to not to get pressurised into doing something you don't want to do."

Ditch the Label also looked at the most popular apps used by young people on Smartphones.

Snapchat - an instant photo sharing platform with images being "deleted" after 10 seconds, came top, followed by Instagram, Skype, Kik Messenger.

The survey also revealed that 62pc of young people had been sent nasty private messages through apps and that 52pc never reported the abuse.

hnews@herald.ie

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