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REPORT: Many Kids Sharing Nudes Before Parents Talk to Them About Safety

August 3, 2022

5 Minute Read

LOS ANGELESAug. 3, 2022 /PRNewswire/ — New research from Thorn, a technology nonprofit dedicated to defending children from online sexual abuse, finds that fewer than 1 in 3 parents have talked with their children about sharing nudes.

This research, “The Role of Caregivers: Safeguarding & Enhancing Youth Resilience Against Harmful Sexual Encounters Online“, shows that parents’ hesitancy to discuss this topic often stems from a discrepancy between how often and how early parents believe children are sharing nude selfies and kids’ self-reporting of this behavior.

This hesitancy can cause delays in parents’ responses to a rapidly changing landscape of sexual exploitation online.

The research also reflects many parents feel ill-equipped to have these uncomfortable conversations with their children and examines the attitudes, perceptions, and behaviors of caregivers as they relate to talking with their children about sharing “nudes,” or self-generated child sexual abuse material (SG-CSAM).

This latest study builds on Thorn’s earlier research examining the experiences of young people who have shared explicit imagery of themselves.

Thorn found that:

  1. Parents generalize talks about online safety with their kids. This often comes at the expense of explicit discussions that can help kids recognize and navigate the distinct risks and pathways of grooming and sharing nudes. While 2 in 3 parents have talked with their child about social media and digital safety, fewer than 1 in 3 parents have talked with their child about sharing nudes of themselves.
    Even fewer parents (27%) have had conversations with their children about non-consensually re-sharing the nude imagery of their peers. More concerningly, 1 in 4 parents believes that the person who receives a nude photo or video has a right to re-share it at their discretion, with 33% of male parents thinking this is acceptable compared to 16% of women—a troubling gender discrepancy.
  2. Gender plays a pervasive role in how caregivers approach SG-CSAM with their child. For example, while caregivers think boys should receive a conversation about SG-CSAM at younger ages than girls, they think girls should receive a conversation about online sexual predators at younger ages than boys. They also perceive higher levels of risk for girls experiencing online sexual activity than boys.
  3. Caregivers perceive that their children would never engage with SG-CSAM or are too young. Parents’ misconceptions about the ages at which children are sharing nudes, combined with a lack of confidence in speaking with their child about this topic or the tech they use, inhibit critical conversations between caregivers and their kids. Although the majority of parents think they should speak to children about SG-CSAM before they turn 13, only 1 in 5 parents of children aged 9-12 has done so. Thorn’s earlier research, however, has shown that the practice of sharing nudes is seen as “normal” among children as young as 9.
  4. Not all kids have equal access to engaged or informed caregivers who can help safeguard them from the risks associated with SG-CSAM — and sadly, some parents hold extreme perspectives that could worsen outcomes for a child confronting a risky online experience. For instance, 1 in 5 parents is comfortable with their child being convicted of a crime or having to register as a sex offender if caught re-sharing nude images of another student. Further, over half (53%) of all parents would place the ultimate blame on the victim whose nudes were shared without consent.

The report underscores the critical need to provide parents and caregivers with the tools they need to have open, honest, and non-judgmental discussions with their kids about online risks and healthy online relationships.

That’s why Thorn launched Thorn for Parents, a digital resource hub designed to equip parents and caregivers and help them have earlier, more frequent, and judgment-free conversations with kids about digital safety.

While these conversations may be uncomfortable, 4 in 5 parents surveyed agreed a few things would make them more likely to speak with their children about digital safety. These factors include knowing other parents at their child’s school were discussing the issue with their children; having a better understanding of the tech platforms their children use; and understanding that nude-sharing behavior was on the rise.

“Parents and caregivers are the first line of defense in protecting children from bad actors and other dangers online,” said Julie Cordua, CEO of Thorn. “We study the ways parents currently engage with their kids on these topics to better understand what might be holding parents back – and what can be created to help parents have more proactive conversations with their children on these topics.

“All parents want the best for their kids—and while there are many steps parents can take to protect their children online, the first step is having honest talks with their children about risks and safety, without judgment. Thorn is here to help parents start these conversations so we can move closer to a world where every child is free to safely explore online, and to simply be a kid.”

Methodology: This research was conducted by Thorn in partnership with Benenson Strategy Group. Both qualitative and quantitative tools were used to collect data related to caregiver attitudes and behaviors about the role of technology in their child’s life and its intersection with sexual exploration. In March 2020, 16 caregivers, aged 31-60 and 14 youth, aged 15-17, participated in focus groups. In July and October 2021, 2,000 caregivers from across the United States participated in one of two 18-minute online surveys. Data was weighted to age, gender, race, and geography, based on US Census data.

Note of Privacy and Safety

Ensuring the privacy and safety of those who chose to participate in this research was paramount. Help resources were provided to participants in the event who wanted to learn more about the topics discussed or needed professional support to talk about the issues.

About Thorn: Thorn is a nonprofit founded in 2012 to build technology to defend children from sexual abuse to eliminate child sex abuse material from the internet. Thorn creates products that identify child victims faster, provides services for the tech industry to play a proactive role in removing abuse content from their platforms, and works directly with youth and communities to build resilient kids. Learn more about Thorn’s mission to build technology to defend children from sexual abuse at

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