LOS ANGELES, Nov. 15, 2021 /PRNewswire/ -- New research from Thorn, a technology non-profit dedicated to defending children from online sexual exploitation, found that twice as many children between the ages of 9 and 12 reported sending nudes or other Self-Generated Child Sexual Abuse Material (SG-CSAM) in 2020 than in 2019. The research, "Self-Generated Child Sexual Abuse Material: Youth Attitudes and Experiences in 2020," is one of the few studies of its kind monitoring changes in minors' behaviors and attitudes related to SG-CSAM.
Summary of Findings
- More kids reported sharing nudes, and LGBTQ+ youth were nearly 3 times as likely to share their own SG-CSAM versus their non LGBTQ+ peers. Sharing of nudes was up across nearly all demographic variables related to gender, age, and sexual identity, with Thorn finding 17% of all kids (ages 9-17) saying they have shared nudes —a 6% increase from 2019. This increase was more pronounced among pre-teens (9-12 year olds) and boys.
- There is an increasing perception of normalcy around sharing nudes among pre-teen boys in particular. 1 in 4 boys aged 9-12 said that it was "normal" to share nudes— a 10% increase from the year prior.
- The use of secondary accounts (such as but not limited to "finstas") made to keep content private, was up among 9-12 year olds who also reported a drop in regularly following online safety rules.
- Among respondents between ages of 9 and 17 who reported sharing nudes, 50% reported sending nudes to someone they had never met in real life, and 41% believed they were sending the images to an adult. That represents a significant increase year-over-year, where 37% of kids in Thorn's 2019 survey had said they shared nudes with someone they only knew online. The data highlights the growing threat of child grooming and exploitation perpetuated by sexual predators online.
"The pandemic has had a profound effect on the lives of children, who are now spending even more time online, and often with less supervision," said Julie Cordua, CEO of Thorn. "Our tracking of kids' changing attitudes and behaviors towards sharing sexually explicit material shows how greater access to technology comes with greater risks, and why parents and caregivers need to be prepared to equip young people with the tools and knowledge to be safe and healthy on the Internet. It has never been more urgent that we talk with our kids about online safety."
Thorn studies these attitudes and behaviors to inform their efforts to protect children from online sexual abuse and exploitation. Thorn's research on SG-CSAM began in 2019 with its first report on the attitudes and behaviors of children ages 9 through 17. The 2019 research serves as the baseline for the changes identified in the latest report, which reflects a survey conducted in October and November 2020 with over 1,000 minors aged 9-17.
In September, Thorn launched Thorn for Parents, a digital resource hub designed to assist parents and caregivers to have earlier, more frequent and judgment-free conversations with kids about digital safety. Thorn for Parents brings caregivers face-to-face with the reality that digital safety conversations need to start much younger than they may think and the importance of having them more often in order to help guide kids through these difficult topics with understanding, empathy, and support.
Thorn's full report "Self-Generated Child Sexual Abuse Material: Youth Attitudes and Experiences in 2020" can be viewed online here.
Methodology: The survey collected self-reported data from minors aged 9-17. In total, 1,002 minors of a nationally representative sample participated in a 20-minute online survey from October 26 to November 12, 2020. Data was weighted to age, gender, race, and geography, based on US Census data. This research represents a continuation of research originally performed in 2019.
About Thorn: Thorn is a nonprofit founded in 2012 to build technology to defend children from sexual abuse to eliminate child sex abuse material from the internet. Thorn creates products that identify child victims faster, provides services for the tech industry to play a proactive role in removing abuse content from their platforms, and works directly with youth and communities to build resilient kids. Learn more about Thorn's mission to build technology to defend children from sexual abuse at Thorn.org.