Children now see “sexting” as part of normal life with girls more likely to provide sexually explicit pictures of themselves through social media Smartphone apps, according to an anti-bullying report.
Instances of abuse and sexting, where explicit texts and pictures are sent between smartphone devices, are on the rise and are having a serious detrimental effect on the health and wellbeing of young people, English charity Ditch the Label has claimed.
The British anti-bullying organisation surveyed 2732 people aged between 13 and 25 and had published the findings in its Wireless Report.
The survey revealed that 62 per cent of young people had been abused through a Smartphone app, while 37 per cent had sent a naked photo of themselves and 24 per cent had seen that image shared without their consent.
Girls were twice as likely to send a naked photo to someone than boys, the report said.
While 49 per cent of those questioned said they believed sexting was just a bit of harmless fun and 16 per cent said it was “the normal thing to do”, 13 per cent of young people claimed they had felt pressurised into sending explicit pictures.
Chloe, 17, who did not want to give her surname for fear of reprisals, said she fell into a deep depression after sending a naked photo of herself to a boy she trusted, only to find he had uploaded it to Facebook.
The teenager was being bullied at school three years ago and thought that by becoming friends with the boy the bullying would stop.
She claims he spent three or four months asking for her to send him a naked “selfie” and that she eventually relented under the pressure.
The next day she saw the picture had been uploaded to Facebook and many pupils at her school had seen it.
“He said it served me right. It had a lot of repercussions for me and I fell into a severe depression.
“I tried to commit suicide a few times. It was really tough.
“I didn’t let my dad know because it would have broken his heart. My mum was angry with me but there was nothing she could do but support me.”
Chloe said she contacted Facebook but it took at least two days for the image to come down, by which time the damage had already been done.
The Facebook website says it does not tolerate bullying or harassment and that it has “a strict policy against the sharing of pornographic content and any explicitly sexual content where a minor is involved”.
It claims it also imposes limitations on the display of nudity.
Ditch the Label also looked at the most popular apps used by young people on Smartphones.
Snapchat – an instant photo sharing platform with images being “deleted” after 10 seconds, came top, followed by Instagram, Skype, Kik Messenger – a free anonymous instant messaging app, and Whatsapp, according to the charity.
The survey also revealed that 62 per cent of young people had been sent nasty private messages through Smartphone apps and that 52 per cent had never reported the abuse they received.
A further 26 per cent said they felt like their complaint was not taken seriously when they reported it, the survey said.
Almost half of those who had suffered abuse through a Smartphone app said they had experienced a loss of confidence, while 22 per cent turned to self-harming as a coping mechanism and 22 per cent tried to change their appearance to avoid further abuse.
Claire Lilley, head of Child Online Safety at the NSPCC said: “Sadly many children now see sexting as part of normal life with girls constantly being pestered to provide sexual pictures of themselves.
“It may seem harmless fun but it can often have a devastating end with images that were never intended to be shared being circulated to a massive audience.”