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‘Staying Safe Online’ survey: what unwanted sexual images are being sent to teenagers on social media?

Blog Editor, IOE Digital19 June 2020

Jessica Ringrose and colleagues.

Since lockdown began, agencies such as the WHO, Interpol and the NSPCC have warned that increased screen time during COVID-19 makes young people more susceptible to online sexual exploitation, grooming and abuse.

We know that since lockdown began, ‘25% of girls have experienced at least one form of abuse, bullying or sexual harassment online’, and that there has been an upsurge in practices such as ‘revenge porn’. However, we know little about which platforms the abuse takes place on, the type of abuse experienced, who commits it (e.g. strangers vs. peers), or the precise ways it has changed since lockdown.

That is why we are running an online survey of teenagers to find out more.

Our research with 150 young people aged 12-18 in 2019 found many young people experience a daily barrage (more…)

10 years on: why we still need better sex education for the digital world

Blog Editor, IOE Digital17 March 2019

 

Jessica Ringrose with Amelia Jenkinson and Sophie Whitehead of Sexplain. 

Last month new guidance  for Relationships Education, Relationships and Sex Education (RSE) and Health Education for England was put out for consultation by the Department for Education. This draft statutory guidance is intended to upgrade the nearly twenty-year-old previous advice from the year 2000. eb-digital-2-e1552856549265

It highlights the current challenges of the digital context and the essential fact that “for many young people the distinction between the online world and other aspects of life is less marked than for some adults” (page 9). This is referenced throughout, in the context of healthy relationships, respectful behaviour and consent. The importance of digital literacy skills is emphasised for both primary and secondary (see paragraphs 58, 62 and ‘Online and Media’ section of secondary table, p28).

While I (Jessica Ringrose) told the New York Times last month that the guidelines looked promising and, “It will be really great if they will be able to tackle all these issues” we, the three authors of this blog post, remain concerned that there are serious omissions and that the guidelines fail to address important (more…)

When it comes to 'sexting' the risks are greater for girls

Blog Editor, IOE Digital16 May 2012

Jessica Ringrose
What is “sexting”? In the law and from the perspective of much mainstream media sexting is typically understood to be the exchange of sexually explicit or nude photos. Concern has so far focused on the illegality of underage images. However as our new report published by the NSPCC demonstrates, we need to move away from a focus on “stranger danger” and the abstract threat of pornography on the internet. The report shows that young people need help in managing the everyday use of technology and their peer gender relations at school including those that are sexual or likely to become sexual, especially if these become coercive.
Technology is not neutral. It creates more intense and prolonged degrees of contact between peers. It facilitates the visual objectification of bodies via the creation, exchange, collection, ranking and display of images. But the report, A qualitative study of children, young people and “sexting”, demonstrates how boy and girl bodies are treated differently and technology can amplify sexual double standards. This is important, and links in crucial ways to Lynne Featherstone’s body confidence campaign. We must find ways to encourage young people’s confidence and well-being about their physical bodies and sexuality.
Girls are most adversely affected by sexting because of a sexual double standard. Boys are to be admired and “rated” for possessing photos. Girls are encouraged to send images, then blamed and called “stupid skets” if they do. They are also vilified in the media.  Collecting images of boys’ bodies does not carry the same kudos for girls. Girls are also at risk if they openly speak about sexual activities and practices, where boys are actually at risk of peer exclusion if they do not brag about sexual experiences. 
This means it is very important to differentiate if and when sexting becomes coercive. Sexting does not refer to a single activity but rather to a range of activities typically motivated by sexual pleasure, flirting and fun. But given the wider culture of sexism and sexual double standards it is not surprising that this can sometimes become coercive.
Sexting reveals and relates to a wider sexist, sexualised culture. Young people are managing globalised consumer oriented cultures. There are gendered expectations on appearance and bodies (being very thin, having large breasts or big muscles) and gendered scripts of masculinity and femininity with pressures around certain forms of sexuality where coercion may be seen as normal.
My co-authors Rosalind Gill, Sonia Livingstone and Laura Harvey and I believe we urgently need better educational resources. E-safety strategies need to address the type of peer generated content I’ve explored, and include up-to-date, realistic resourcessuch as film clips. We need gender sensitive support that does not treat sexting as the fault of girls, and also we cannot simply demonise boys. We need resources that offer practical and ethical ways to challenge and overturn the sexual double standard whilst empowering both girls and boys, considering the sexual health and pleasure of all young people as a right.
Sexting itself is not inherently coercive or harmful, but there are some clear legal aspects and social consequences which need to be understood and avoided by young people.
Watch a video clip of Jessica talking about her research at Cardiff University.