Teenage girls more prone to sexting from peers – study

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Teenage girls are becoming soft targets of pressure from peers or strangers who force them to get into sexual acts, latest finding suggested. A recent study conducted by the NSPCC, in collaboration with Kings College London, revealed sexting is penetrating teenage girls, especially schoolgirls, who are falling into the trap of providing explicit pictures of themselves to their peers, friends or strangers.

Sexting is the act in which an individual sends or receives sexually explicit images via text or email.

The study, titled ‘A Qualitative Study of Children and Young People,’ was conducted by researchers at Kings College, London, the Institute of Education and London School of Economics.

Professor Rosalind Gill, of King’s College said: “Up until now, e-safety campaigns have focused on preparing young people to face dangers posed by strangers online.”

He also revealed that youths are increasingly savvy at protecting themselves from strangers and now facing new problem of peer-to-peer approaches for graphic images.

“We are deeply upset by the levels of sexual abuse, physical harassment and even violence some of the girls experienced on regular basis,” she added.

Jon Brown, head of sexual abuse programme at NSPCC, feels the same about the disturbing revelation. “What’s most striking about this research is that many young people seem to accept all this part of life. But it can be another layer of sexual abuse and, although most children will not be aware, it is illegal,” he said.

“Girls should never be forced to carry out sex acts and boys must understand it’s not acceptable to put them under such duress that they have little choice to agree. It’s very concerning that whilst young people seem to have a solid grasp of stranger danger, they are often struggling to cope with problems from their own peer group,” he added.

Research Process

About 35 teenagers were interviewed in two of the London schools among which 11 young girls were asked to send special photos to boys whom they knew.

The case also revealed that, girls also had to write their name in black pen that projected them as the property of a certain boy. Moreover, girls also received sexually explicit messages from boys demanding oral sex and intercourse.

This sexual and cyber bullying is taking a toll on young teenage girls, both mentally and physically. There is a great need for openness among parents, teachers and other adults to discuss on sexual matters, the study recommended.

Left Alone to Suffer

According to the research, young teenagers had to suffer alone as they were being threatened to be labeled as ‘snitches’ and ‘snakes’ if they inform to anyone. Moreover, girls are being continuously forced until they perform sexual acts on the boys. Once they perform the act, it is being recorded on mobile phones which is broadcasted among groups.

Jessica Ringrose from the Institute of Education said: “Girls are being persuaded by text and Blackberry messenger to send ‘special photos’ and perform sexual services for boys from an early age. In some cases they are as young as 11. Even while we were interviewing them they were bombarded with these messages.”

“Although this is happening through mobile-internet technologies, teens still face the same old situation that boys, who have sex are seen as players and earn the respect of their peers, while girls who do the same are labeled as ‘skets’ and ‘sluts’.”

Tackling Sexting

In earlier April, MP Ann Coffey from London asked for recommendations on how to tackle the growing number of sexting cases among teenage children. Several suggestions were drawn that included:

• Mobile companies to be asked to set aside portion of money to tackle sexting issues
• Advertisements and campaigns showing the hazardous of sexting
• Training mobile phone shop staff to make customers aware of the issue while buying the phone

Experts and police are also trying their best to tackle the issue by education girls about the dangers of sending photos to boys under duress.

The responsibility is not only on the shoulders of experts or mobile companies, parents too have to keep an eye on their children and check if they are involved in such explicit behaviour.

Sources: menmedia.co.uk, BBC, phys.org

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