NEW Harvard and UK Studies about Sexting

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Many of us have been talking about the emerging changes in the way children and adolescents receive (and send) information about sexuality in the media. Below are two recent studies that focus on the issue and impact of sexting. The first is from Harvard University and the second is from the U.K.


Sexting: Youth Practices and Legal Implications

By Dena T. Sacco, with Rebecca Argudin, James Maguire, and Kelly Tallon

This document is intended to provide background for discussion of interventions related to sexting. It begins with a definition of sexting, and continues with overviews of research and media stories related to sexting. It then discusses the statutory and constitutional framework for child pornography and obscenity. It concludes with a description of current and pending legislation meant to address sexting.



Sharing Personal Images and Videos Among Young People

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."

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