New study finds 80 percent of young girls feel under pressure to send sexual images

Sarah Burke

According to research published by the Irish Times and carried out by Zeeko, an internet safety start-up company based in Nova UCD, almost half of the teenagers in their final year at school say they have participated in sexting.

Co-founder of Zeeko Joe Kenny said that “with 94 per cent of students accessing the internet through smartphones, technology is not an addendum to young people’s lives anymore, it is how they live their lives”.

A young woman who spoke to BBC’s Radio 4’s programme explained that she experienced a sexual assault in sixth form after a party. She believes that the pressure young girls are experiencing in sending sexual photographs online is contributing to a wider culture of sexual harassment.

Since the technological world continues to grow and advance, the question must be answered of how we can navigate sexting in a safe and controlled way.

Make sure it’s consensual

No matter how long you’ve known someone, you should never send unsolicited sexual images. Always receive expressed consent before hitting send.

18-year-old Lucy explained to the BBC that receiving nude photographs had become “so normalised” that if they appear in a girls’ social media message requests they “just delete it”.

This casual relationship between sending explicit and unsolicited photographs and young girls having to accept this as “normal” behaviour is alarming.

This creates problems illustrated by Women’s Aid reports that “of the one-third of Irish women that experience abuse 24 per cent experience digital abuse”.

This can be employed in the use of image-based sexual abuse which continues to be a problem in Ireland which was emphasised in November 2020 when 10,000 sexual images were exposed of Irish women on forms.

Acknowledge the risks

According to Insider’s article on how to sext safely, the harsh reality is that sexting can never be guaranteed safe proof.

Cybersecurity expert Rob Black the founder and managing principal of Fractional Ciso said, “there are no amount of security controls even to protect high profiles persons whose images have been exposed. So, for the rest of us, there are ways to minimise the risk but to really minimise that risk, you should never send anything online you wouldn’t like to be published”.

Finally, think about trust, only send explicit content to people you can definitely trust with the content. Does this person seem like they take basic security precautions with their devices? Does the recipient seem like someone who would use this content against you? Always be mindful.

The trends that prove women are experiencing more pressure to send nudes are particularly worrying. Two parties involved in sexting should never be sexting out a sense of obligation or if you experience any hesitation.

Cyber psychologist Dr Marina Everri said that whilst the trends of increased sexting amongst teenagers are not something unexpected, “the findings provide evidence on the persistence of a patriarchal model, which still seems to permeate the lives of younger generations regardless of them being online or offline”.

Sarah Burke

Image credits: Julie Ricard on Unsplash