Sexting is not the norm for teens

You might have read that ‘sexting’ is now considered the norm for young people. I first read this assertion a couple of years ago (when I originally wrote this blog, which I thought I lost but didn’t and have republished).

This was based on a small piece of research conducted by Professor Andy Phippen.

Actually sexting is not the norm amongst teens in the UK. According to the EU Kids Online project (interviewing 25000 young people across EU)

“12% of 11-16 year old internet users have received sexual messages, although 4% have sent them. In the UK, ‘sexting’ appears a little less common than across Europe. 7% of UK 11-16 year olds have been sent a sexual message, and 5% have seen a sexual message posted online. Only 3% have seen others perform sexual acts in a message and 2% had been asked to talk about sexual acts with someone online. (my emphasis)…. 19% of UK children who have received sexual messages online have been bothered or upset by the experience.” EU Kids Online UK Report

This is backed up by another robust US study which suggests the numbers are between 1% and 7%  depending on the definition of a ‘sext’. (pdf)

Professor Andy Phippen’s research was not to measure prevalence but to ask young people’s thoughts about it in focus groups (not randomised groups, no individual interviews, in 8 schools).

They talked about how they have heard about instances in their school and that they are aware it happens (but not with any of their friends), but they certainly didn’t say it was the norm. The researcher was misleading in his quote to the media.

For a really interesting use of focus groups of young people and practitioners check this from Australia

This study for the NSPCC (although very small scale) illustrates how harassment happens on and offline

For more about sexting for young people