The Online Safety Toolkit: Guidesheet: 7 Steps for Deciding what Apps to Allow
Use this series of questions to help decide, in collaboration with your kids, when to allow or prevent apps and games. Let them know it is not a checklist resulting in only “yes” or “no”, but that there may be settings and parameters that need to be in place before proceeding.
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Plugged In: What is the Metaverse?
Virtual reality, augmented reality, the metaverse… Parents have varying degrees of familiarity with these ideas, but nobody truly knows how they will play out or the overall effect they might have in the lives of growing children.
In this 13 minute video, human rights advocate and virtual reality expert Brittan Heller talks about the future of the metaverse, virtual and augmented reality and how society can make these technologies safer for youth — and everyone.
“Sending Nudes:” What are Kids’ Behaviors and Perceptions?
Online trends shift faster than they can be tracked and studied, especially since COVID-19 began. Some of the most helpful research in recent years has been conducted by Thorn, a nonprofit working to eliminate online child sexual abuse. They have now released 2 reports on youth behaviors and attitudes related to self-generated child sexual abuse material (SG-CSAM), or what is informally known as “sending nudes.” Below we summarize some of the valuable findings from their reports, which documented attitudes and behaviors in 2019 and 2020.
We encourage readers to check out the full report, where data is presented in two age ranges (9-12, 13-17) for more precision.
“…(1) sexting is becoming viewed as a “normal” activity among peers; (2) coercion plays a critical role and exponentially increases risk to the victim; and (3) attitudes of blame and shame can compound the harms of online threats and unintentionally isolate young people.
Specific Data Points:
% of minors (9-17) who agree it is normal for kids their age to “share nudes”.
Note: while the combined total remained steady, younger youth showed a significant increase while teens showed a slight decrease.
% of minors (9-17) who have shared their own explicit image
Note: Both age ranges (9-12 and 13-17) showed increased sharing, with reports from 9-12 yr. Olds more than doubling (from 6-14%)
Largest increases in production and sharing of images:
% of 9-10 yr. Old who have shared their own image
2020: 32% (almost 2.5x more likely than non-LGBTQ+ youth)
Among youth who have sent a nude photo or image (2020 data):
50% sent images to someone they had never met offline
41% sent images to someone over the age of 18
Rates of sharing nude images and videos by household income (2019 data only):
$50k – $75k: 10%
$75k – $100k: 15%
$100k – $150k: 17%
Note: There is a possible link between household income and experience with sharing nudes, with a trend of increased sharing with higher household income.
Reasons why youth who considered sending a nude image or video decided not to:
Note: When speaking with kids and developing curriculum, speaking to youth concerns is essential. For example, the illegality of image sharing is shown to not weigh heavily on their minds, and therefore may not be the best primary emphasis.
Perceptions of blame when a nude has been re-shared with broader audience:
Note: This is encouraging data that suggests that education around coercion and non-consensual sharing is having an impact. The less shame attached to these situations, the better able kids are to get help.
Taken together, these and other data points paint a complex and shifting picture of youth attitudes and behavior. While the details fluctuate, kids’ sense of “a new normal” seems to hold steady. As we continue to work to keep them safe and raise informed digital citizens, keeping up with their experiences and views is essential to effective communication.
Going Beyond “Public and Permanent”
When encouraging kids to practice safe behaviors, whether on or offline, the most effective approach depends on a variety of factors, such as kids’ priorities and motivations, current norms, as well as the current practices recommended by experts.
With time, we as a society learned that “stranger danger” poses less of a risk to children than does danger and maltreatment from people they know and trust, and we continue to adjust our messaging accordingly.
When it comes to sharing explicit images online, dominant practice has been to emphasize to kids that anything they share online can become “public and permanent” and therefore they should behave as if it will. This is not bad advice, but it first arose in a pre-social media, pre-mobile device environment. With the advent of smartphones and non-stop connectivity, the ease and frequency of sharing private content has increased dramatically, as has the likelihood that a private image will then be non-consensually shared with others or posted online.
Given how often kids are sharing images and having those images non-consensually spread further, some experts are questioning if “public and permanent” is still the best framing. When a child – who through typical adolescent lapses in judgement may have engaged in sharing an image of themselves – is told that those images are public and permanent, it may simply be add to the shame, despair, and fear they could already feel toward the situation. In reality, there are often actions to be taken to prevent or minimize the spread of explicit images, but kids may be less likely to pursue that help if they have been presented with a black-and-white version of online risk and safety, or fear punishment for seeking help.
Ultimately, we need laws, language, and education that better acknowledge the complex range of experiences that fall within “sexting” and online risky behavior. When we recognize and speak to these different circumstances, we are better able to emphasize the danger of “public and permanent” without that becoming a disempowering idea to those kids who have already experienced coercion or the betrayal of having images shared non-consensually.