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Leading children’s charity Beatbullying uncovers true extent of ‘sexting’ amongst UK teens

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Leading UK’s children charity, Beatbullying today unveils new research on ‘Sexting’, the sending of sexually explicit messages via text and email.  The research indicates that over a third (38%) under 18s have received an offensive or distressing sexual image via text or email.

These findings form part of ground breaking research on sexting from Beatbullying, the UK’s leading bullying prevention charity.

Beatbullying findings uncovers that sexualized peer to peer anti social behaviour is escalating at an alarming rate with developments in digital technology.

Common ‘sexts’ include images of young boys exposing themselves or masturbating, boys who have requested girls to remove their clothing and images of sexual acts which would be considered by most as pornographic.

Material is often Bluetoothed, added to home built websites, uploaded onto social networking groups and sent around by email or text.

Cases of sexting have been well documented in the US and Australia, but little is known of young people’s exposure to sexting and other forms of peer to peer (sexual) anti social behaviour via mobile phones and the internet.

Beatbullying’s research of 11-18 year-olds found that:

  • 38% said they had received a sexually explicit or distressing text or email (male: 36% | female: 39%)
  • 70% of young people knew the sender of the message.
  • 45% of messages were from a peer, 23% from a current boyfriend / girlfriend and just 2% from adults
  • Of the 25% who received an offensive sexual image, 55% were issued via mobile phone
  • 29% have been chatting online chat when someone started talking about offensive or up-setting sexual things (male: 24% | female: 31%)
  • In this instance, 45% said the chat was instigated by a peer, 10% by an ex-partner and 2% by an adult

These statistics support Beatbullying’s work by providing further evidence to highlight that peer to peer anti-social/predatory behaviour is one of the biggest threats facing our young people today online and via mobile phones.

Emma –Jane Cross, chief executive of Beatbullying, said: “Beatbullying surveyed two thousand young people to understand how technology is changing the way they’re communicating and look at how they’re manipulating digital media to bully and pressurise their peers.

“We don’t want to inhibit young people in their exploration of sexuality, but it is important that parents and schools are aware that sexting is a significant issue amongst our children and young people, so together we can act to stop this kind of behaviour before it escalates into something far more problematic. This is about campaigning for the rights of our young people and for digital safety. We need to address the fact that sexual peer to peer contact is being exponentially facilitated through new technologies.

“The Byron report made a commitment to protecting our young people in this complicated new online era, the Government has a duty to ensure it meets these recommendations.
“We need to take series note of what has happened in the US and Australia. To avoid similar cases here, politicians must work together with organisations like Beatbullying to create an intervention and prevention task force in schools and communities.

“This needs to be part of the solution if we are to educate our young people, teachers and families about the consequences of their actions and how to keep safe online as well as offline.”

In a major step to tackle the bullying epidemic head on, Beatbullying launched the world’s first peer mentoring social networking site www.cybermentors.org.uk in March 09. For the first time, a young person suffering at the hands of bullies both on and offline can seek immediate help and support from their peers.

Since its launch in March, over 150,000 young people have accessed Beatbullying’s CyberMentors website to seek help and support from their peers.

Definition of Sexting: A portmanteau of sex and texting, Sexting is the act of sending sexually explicit messages or photos electronically, primarily between mobile phones and/or the internet. Sexting is an extension of cyberbullying when someone (or a group of people) deliberately attempts to hurt, upset, threaten or humiliate someone else. This includes when a recipient is made to feel uncomfortable as a direct result of the content, or asked to do something which makes the recipient feel distressed.

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