‘Sharing sexual images has been dangerously normalized among teenagers’ – Miriam Stoppard


Miriam Stoppard says receiving inappropriate images via social media has become so normal that young people are shying away from reporting it for fear of victim-blaming

Teenage girl looking at mobile phone
One of the key aims of the report is to help parents understand the digital landscape so they can support their children in navigating this difficult terrain (Stock photo)

For some reason teens are reluctant to report receiving sexual images, or being asked to share them, to their school, parents or social media platforms such as Snapchat, TikTok and Instagram.

The findings of the Institute of Education, University College London, show that teenage girls are overwhelmingly affected by the impact of unwanted image sharing and that it’s become “dangerously normalized” for many young people.

The study included 480 young people from across the UK aged from 12 to 18, including 144 who participated in focus groups.

Just over half (51%) of those who had received unwanted sexual content online, or had their image shared without their consent, reported doing nothing about it.

When why they didn’t report the incident, around a third of people said: “I don’t think asked reporting works”.

Of the 88 girls taking part in the focus groups, 75% said they’d received an image of male genitals, with the majority “not asked for” or “unwanted”.

Nearly half the incidents of image-based sexual harassment were from unknown adult men
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Image:

GettyImages)

Nearly half the incidents of image-based sexual harassment were from unknown adult men, but there were also episodes of online harassment and abuse from boys of their own age.

Lead author of the report, Professor Jessica Ringrose, from University College London, said: “Young people in the UK are facing a crisis of online sexual violence.

“Despite these young people, in particular girls, saying they felt disgusted, embarrassed and confused about the sending and receiving of non-consensual images, they rarely want to talk about their online experiences for fear of victim-blaming and worry that reporting will make matters worse.

“We hope this report allows all of us to better identify when and how image-sharing becomes digital sexual harassment and abuse, and spread the message that, although the non-consensual sending and sharing of sexual images may be common and feel normal, it is extremely harmful.”

Report co-author, Dr Kaitlyn Regehr, from the University of Kent, said: “This is a societal issue and we need to help create environments where young people feel able to talk and safe enough to share their experiences.

“One of the key aims of our report is to help parents understand the digital landscape so – rather than being punitive – they can support their children in navigating this difficult terrain.”

Margaret Mulholland, Inclusion Policy Specialist at the Association of School and College Leaders, added: “School leaders will welcome this new report, which shows the enormous challenge schools face in supporting the disclosure of sexual harassment experienced by young people.”

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www.mirror.co.uk

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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