As many as 76.1 per cent of nude photos or photos with underwear are sent via Snapchat, but WhatsApp is popular as well (48 per cent). That such images are most often posted on Snapchat is not entirely surprising. Young people see Snapchat as the most personal social network. Photos are not automatically stored online, making the medium seem safe for sexting. More girls (7 per cent) than boys (5.5 per cent) sext.
"Sexting can cause major problems among young people," says Marjolijn Bonthuis from the Safer Internet Centre in the Netherlands. "The popularity of Snapchat is partly because users think that their photo or message is gone in no time. But it is forgotten that a screenshot is easily made and quickly spread. A racy photo made for your boyfriend can haunt you for years, or longer."
Almost a quarter of the youngsters surveyed have received a nude photo or a photo in underwear. Girls (24.5 per cent) more often receive sexts than boys (21.6 per cent). They also sext more often: 7.1 per cent of girls compared to 5.5 per cent of boys. Awareness about the risks of sexting has increased significantly. These new figures show that 64 per cent of the youngsters realise that a sext can be further spread. Last year it was 10 per cent. Almost 75 per cent of the youngsters think those who spread the sext further do that to be popular or cool, while more than half of the youngsters find peers who do sexting stupid. At the same time, however, a youngster who does sexting is not always rejected by his or her friends; on the contrary, young people support each other. Nearly 7 out of 10 youngsters say their friends can count on their support if a nude photo were to circulate on the internet.
95 per cent of the parents surveyed talk about online media usage with their youngsters. 65 per cent speak specifically about sexting. Other research from Kliksafe (in cooperation with the University of Amsterdam), presented on Safer Internet Day, shows that parents are the most important source of information for youngsters: 77.2 per cent of youngsters go to their parents for information about online safety. "The more parents and their youngsters talk at home, the more critical youngsters are in the use of social media and the more youngsters will tell their parents that they received a sext," says Bert Jan Peters, Director of Kliksafe. It seems that a mutual call (make agreements together) and informed and interested approach ("tell me…") works considerably better than a one-way conversation (with assignments and preaching) and bargaining ("if you do this, you can do that").
When a nude photo of a student circulates and security is compromised, a school has to act quickly. But, in practice, schools receive the signal late and the threshold to go to a counsellor at school is high. Only 1.3 per cent of the students do so. "Students often do not know who this counsellor is or that there even is a counsellor at their school to talk to in this situation. They do not know him or her. They do not take this person in confidence," says Petra Vervoort, educational consultant on sexting and an external counsellor. "Make sure that students feel that the school takes the spreading of nude pictures very seriously and that they can talk about their problems with someone they can trust. You achieve this mainly by talking about it."
A number of practical lessons for schools are as follows:
- Give a lesson each year in which the behaviour of spreading images through social media is discussed, with special attention to images of violence and sex. Students must know all the consequences of sexting. See, for example, www.mentorlessen.nl.
- Make sure that students know who they can go to for help, for themselves or for others. Make sure that each student really knows how they can easily approach this person (email, mobile phone number, etc.). As they do not always dare to go to a counsellor, indicate that they can turn to a mentor or a teacher they trust as well.
- Prepare for dealing with the spread of sexting: for example, set up a protocol on the basis of the Roadmap of Sexting from Bureau Jeugd & Media.
Find out more about Safer Internet Day in the Netherlands.
Find out more about the work of the Dutch Safer Internet Centre, including its awareness raising, helpline, hotline and youth participation services.