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Decoding Youth Behavior: New Research Gives Eye-Opening Insights on Youth Online Safety in 2022

November 14, 2023

3 Minute Read

At Thorn, our commitment to creating safer online spaces for youth remains at the core of our mission. 

Through methodical research in our field, we seek to understand the evolving digital landscape our youth navigate. This knowledge is critical to informing and equipping those in the child safety space with the relevant, updated information they need to keep kids safe. 

In our annual report, Youth Perspectives on Online Safety 2022, we delve deep into the behaviors and attitudes of today’s minors concerning self-generated child sexual abuse material (SG-CSAM), sometimes referred to as “nudes.” This research offers critical insights, revealing both alarming trends and an underlying need for better awareness and proactive interventions.

What this year’s data uncovers:

  • Norms in relationships are changing: A notable 69% of minors who have shared their own SG-CSAM did so within offline romantic relationships, with girls more likely than boys to say that this is who they’re sharing with.
  • Platforms used for online sexual interactions run the gamut: The platforms where most minors reported having a sexual interaction were Snapchat, Facebook, Instagram, Messenger, TikTok, and Twitter. The platforms with the highest rates of these interactions among minor users were Omegle, Telegram, Kik, Facebook, and Twitter.
  • Boys continue to face elevated risks, particularly related to non-consensual resharing: Boys are slightly more likely (+8%) than girls to report having shared their own nude images and are more than 1.5 times as likely as girls to report having reshared someone else’s imagery.
  • More youth are seeking help: Encouragingly, minors are more frequently seeking offline support after experiencing online sexual interactions. In 2022, offline support saw an increase of 12 percentage points from the previous year.

What can we learn from this year’s data?

This research underscores the changing norms among minors, emphasizing the increasing normalization of sharing nude images. Our CEO, Julie Cordua, aptly stated that these findings stress the necessity for open dialogues between parents, caregivers, and children: 

“The latest data shows how increasingly normal it is for minors to share nude photos of themselves and others,” said Julie Cordua, CEO of Thorn. “Shedding light on these behaviors underscores the need for parents and caregivers to begin a dialogue with their kids about the potential risks and dangers of sharing this type of content – as well as about consent, just as they might when talking about offline sexual exploration. By enabling more productive and open conversations around tricky and sometimes uncomfortable topics, we can improve online safety for children everywhere.”

Understanding these behaviors and perceptions is vital, and can help us move the needle on the ways we think about preventing harmful sharing and re-sharing of SG-CSAM. 

Why empowering youth and caregivers matters:

Thorn continues to do our part to empower both parents and youth. 

Parents can serve as the first line of defense when it comes to keeping kids safe, but they must be equipped with the tools needed for initiating open conversations about potential dangers online. That’s where Thorn for Parents, our resource hub to help parents have these essential dialogues, comes in. 

And youth themselves have a significant role in helping mitigate these harms and dangers as they navigate online spaces. For them, NoFiltr, our youth-centric program, offers resources and fosters healthy discussions, guiding them through the complexities of online interactions with understanding and empathy.

What’s next?

Thorn will continue to monitor trends in youth attitudes and experiences in the years to come with the goal of making this data available to anyone who has a role in delivering successful interventions that safeguard, support, and empower all young people as they navigate their digital experiences. 

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