WGPlus (Archive)

Thank God the technology didn’t exist when my own children were vulnerable! (Editor)

Many young people are aware of the risks of sending naked selfies, but often choose to do so anyway because they see it as a fun & normal part of relationships, a study to be highlighted at the ESRC Festival of Social Science has shown.

The report found that children, some as young as 12, are sharing these photos - and for many of the study group, consisting of people who had shared naked photos under the age of 18, it was a natural way of exploring their sexuality and something they did with a trusted partner.  Some however were coerced & threatened, often by strangers they had met online. 

The research findings of 'Self-Produced Images - Risk Taking Online' (SPIRTO) demonstrate the difficulties police, parents and schools face in distinguishing between normal, healthy behaviour and illegal abuse.  

Rather than making a rash decision, most of the participants carefully considered whether or not to send a naked photo of themselves.  Most were aware of the risks, and often took steps to mitigate them, such as not including their face in the photo, or any clear identifying marks such as tattoos.  Many kept compromising photos of the other person as a sort of mutually assured destruction.

In the majority of cases, naked selfies were not shared beyond the intended recipient.  The consequences of sending the images were not always absolutely catastrophic, but they were for some people.  Currently there aren't any guidelines to help police & social workers deal with cases where naked selfies taken by children have been shared without their permission.  Police in the UK have to investigate if there is a suggestion another person may be involved, and it is enormously resource demanding for the police. 

The results of this study will be presented as part of the Festival of Social Science invite-only event 'Let's talk about sexting', at Walpole Hall, in Edinburgh, on 11 November at 10.00.  You can find out more on this topic by watching the video series.
Researched Links:

ESRC:  Why are young people sharing nude selfies?

Child sexual exploitation the new “social norm” in some areas

NSPCC:  Sexting

Selfies: the naked truth - Thinkuknow

Sexting scare: 6 sexting myths busted - Telegraph

Sexting | Childline

CEOP - YouTube

Thrill-seekers taking ‘storm selfies’ are risking lives

The State of the State