New study on ‘digital abuse’ & youth

New national sexting numbers that have sparked headlines all over the Web about higher-than-ever sexting rates among US youth actually show that 90% have not sent naked photos to someone. Sammy, a San Francisco 16-year-old cited in the Associated Press’s coverage and one of the 10% of youth who have sent “sexts,” told the AP that he probably wouldn’t do it again knowing that sexting could bring felony charges. I think all the above says a lot about the importance of 1) educating teens about this (see ConnectSafely’s tips for starters ) 2) reporting surveys accurately, and 3) applying some critical thinking to breaking news. [In CNET’s coverage, co-director Larry Magid points out that the MTV/AP study of 1,247 14-to-24-year-olds “confirms what many Internet safety experts have been saying for the past several months: Young people are far more likely to experience problems online from their peers or from their own indiscretions than from adult predators.”]

Here are some highlights from the AP/MTV survey:

* The 50% figure you may’ve seen in some headlines refers to the percentage of youth who have experienced “digital abuse from the mild to the extreme,” including spreading lies, violation of trust, and digital disrespect.
* 30% have been involved in some type of naked photo-sharing.
* 10% have actually sent sexting photos, females more than males (13% vs. 9%, respectively).
* 45% of sexually active youth report being involved with sexting. * Young people have complex views of sexting, calling it everything from “hot” and “trusting” to “uncomfortable” and “slutty,” and those who don’t engage in it calling it “gross,” “uncomfortable,” and “stupid.”
* In the “dating abuse” area, 22% say their significant others check up on them too often (see other interesting data in that category).
* 76% say digital abuse is a serious problem for people their age.
* 51% “say they have thought about the idea that things they post online could come back to hurt them”; and only 25% have given at least some thought to the idea that what they post could get them in trouble with the police and 28% in trouble at school.

There’s lots more interesting data, so please click to the pdf summary at for more.

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