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'Sexting is normal for children'


Research suggests that 'sexting' is a normal part of life for children

Research suggests that 'sexting' is a normal part of life for children

Research suggests that 'sexting' is a normal part of life for children

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 62% of young people had been abused through a Smartphone app, while 37% had sent a naked photo of themselves, and 24% 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 49% of those questioned said they believed sexting was just a bit of harmless fun and 16% said it was "the normal thing to do", 13% 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.

"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 which appear 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."

The Facebook website says it does not tolerate bullying or harassment and that it has "a strict policy against the sharing of pornographic content and any explicitly sexual content where a minor is involved".

It claims it also imposes limitations on the display of nudity.

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 - a free anonymous instant messaging app, and Whatsapp, according to the charity.

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

A further 26% said they felt like their complaint was not taken seriously when they reported it, the survey said.

Almost half of those who had suffered abuse through a Smartphone app said they had experienced a loss of confidence, while 22% turned to self-harming as a coping mechanism and 22% tried to change their appearance to avoid further abuse.

Liam Hackett, Ditch the Label's founder and chief executive officer, said the survey had unearthed some striking statistics and huge areas of concern regarding the safeguarding and wellbeing of young people.

He said: "We are particularly concerned about the amount of young people who are not reporting the abuse that they have received through fears that it isn't going to be taken seriously.

"There is also a huge issue with the unauthorised distribution of sexually explicit images, which we have linked to some very severe health and welfare consequences for those who have had their private images shared."

Claire Lilley, head of Child Online Safety at the NSPCC said: "Sadly many children now see sexting as part of normal life with girls constantly being pestered to provide sexual pictures of themselves.

"It may seem harmless fun but it can often have a devastating end with images that were never intended to be shared being circulated to a massive audience.

"Some of the victims are so mortified by what has happened that they turn to self-harm.

"Young people will inevitably be curious about sex but they must understand that sexting can often have nightmare consequences."

Professor Ian Rivers, a psychologist at Brunel University, said the report highlighted that young people were unaware of the dangers of sending compromising images of themselves.

He said: "We need to educate young people about the risks of sending such images and of engaging with unknown others online and via mobile technology to ensure that the judgements they make are informed.

"It is incumbent upon us as adults to find ways of engaging young people in a discussion about their online safety in safe and non-judgemental environments."

:: The full report can be downloaded from www.DitchtheLabel.org.