A large part of our work comes from informed research collected in the field, which helps our team, along with our many partners, remain on the cutting edge of technology. Connect with important resources and check out our latest research, along with research from our partners.
Research informs our work.
LGBTQ+ Youth Perspectives: How LGBTQ+ Youth are Navigating Exploration and Risks of Sexual Exploitation Online
Our latest research finds that LGBTQ+ youth place enourmous importance on online communities as places for exploration and perceived safety – but these platforms also carry an increased risk of harm and risky encounters.
The new report sheds light on how LGBTQ+ youths’ online habits and preferences are distinct from those of their non-LGBTQ+ peers, how the view risk and danger online, and how their gender/sexual identity and status may impact their likelihood of a negative online encounter.
Self-Generated Child Sexual Abuse Material: Youth Attitudes and Experiences in 2021
Thorn’s latest research monitors the evolution of youth attitudes and experiences with SG-CSAM among 9-17 year-olds for the third consecutive year. Findings from 2021 reveal a sustained increase in the number of young people sharing their own SG-CSAM as well as the perceived normalcy of non-consensually re-sharing another child’s SG-CSAM. The data also underscored heightened risk among boys and Hispanic/Latino youth.
Responding to Online Threats: Minors’ Perspectives on Disclosing, Reporting, and Blocking in 2021
Our latest research on youth’s attitudes toward online safety features found that 22 percent of minors report having online sexual interactions with adults—the same percentage of minors who report having sexual interactions with peers their own age.
The research, which builds on our 2020 report on the same topic, also underscores that the features provided by platforms are simply insufficient when it comes to keeping kids safe.
The Role of Caregivers: Safeguarding & Enhancing Youth Resilience Against Harmful Sexual Encounters Online
Thorn’s latest research study reveals that many parents are hesitant to discuss the issue of SG-CSAM with their kids – and that they may victim-blame and implement harsh punishments. The findings reveal a discrepancy between how early parents believe children are sharing nude selfies and kids’ self-reporting of this behavior.
Online Grooming: Examining risky encounters amid everyday digital socialization
Our latest research sought to understand kids’ online social networks to better disentangle high-value versus high-risk relationships. In a survey of 1,200 youth (aged 9-17), we explored young people’s attitudes and experiences with friendships and flirting online, and how they respond to threats of manipulation, grooming, and abuse. With 2 in 5 of all kids reporting they’ve been approached online by someone they thought was attempting to “befriend and manipulate” them, relevant and scalable interventions are urgently needed.
Self-Generated Child Sexual Abuse Material: Youth Attitudes and Experiences in 2020
In 2019, Thorn launched its first SG-CSAM: Attitudes and Behaviors research initiative. Thorn refielded this study in October and November of 2020, the results of which are provided in this report. The central concerns highlighted in the 2019 report remained consistent in the 2020 data. Additionally, data increasingly points to unique vulnerabilities among some demographics and a concerning increase in risk among 9-12-year-olds.
RESPONDING TO ONLINE THREATS: MINORS’ PERSPECTIVES ON DISCLOSING, REPORTING, AND BLOCKING
Ensuring young people have the support they need when confronting risky situations online is a priority for Thorn. We’re continuing to invest in research to understand young people’s instincts around disclosures and reporting, the barriers they face, and their resulting actions. At base, we are asking the question: what makes or breaks a minor’s decision to turn to a specific support system?
Self-Generated Child Sexual Abuse Material: Attitudes and Experiences (2019)
Self-generated child sexual abuse material (SG-CSAM) is a rapidly growing area of child sexual abuse material (CSAM) in circulation online and being consumed by communities of abusers. Importantly, SG-CSAM – explicit imagery of a child that appears to have been taken by the child in the image – presents unique investigative challenges for law enforcement and a distinct threat to its victims.
The Role of Technology in Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking
In an effort to strategically inform technology initiatives for combating domestic minor sex trafficking (DMST), Thorn partnered with Dr. Vanessa Bouché at Texas Christian University to survey survivors about their experiences. The survey focused on understanding what role technology played in a victim’s recruitment into, time while in, and exit from DMST.
260 survivors of DMST, through 24 survivor organizations, spanning 14 states, completed the survey. Their insights keep us grounded in the reality and complexity of their experience so that the best interventions can be developed to defend children from sexual abuse.
Production & Active Trading of Child Sexual Exploitation Images Depicting Identified Victims
Thorn partnered with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and an expert research team led by Dr. Michael Seto, to develop knowledge that can be used to assist law enforcement in identifying child pornography victims and intervening in ongoing sexual exploitation and abuse cases. Analyzing over a decade of victim and offender data, we aimed to gain insight into trends within offending and to better understand the characteristics of children who are victimized along with their relationships with those who have sexually abused them. Central research questions focus on exploring differences in familial and non-familial cases, connections between child pornography content and contact sexual offending, and geographic and temporal patterns.
Sextortion: Findings from 2015 and 2017 Victim Surveys
Sextortion is a growing problem, with multiple online platforms being used to help facilitate this crime. With so little data known about the dynamics of this crime, we set out to learn more from those directly impacted. In an effort to better understand the threat of sextortion and its impact on children, teens, and young adults, Thorn partnered with the Crimes Against Children Research Center (CCRC) at the University of New Hampshire in 2015 to conduct a first of its kind online survey of 1,631 persons ages 18 to 25 that have been targets of sextortion. In 2017, Thorn set out to update and expand our understanding of sextortion, expanding participation to include 13-25 year olds, 2,097 responded. Our goal with both surveys was to provide useful, accessible information about the dynamics of online episodes involving extortion of sexual images and related crimes against children and adolescents. We hope our findings will be able to inform further research and the development of interventions to disrupt, discourage and prevent online extortion of sexual images and related crimes against minors.
Invisible Offenders: A Study Estimating Online Sex Customers
In an effort to better understand the extent of demand from online sex advertisements, Thorn partnered with the Arizona Statue University (ASU) Office of Sex Trafficking Intervention Research, along with law enforcement, to increase operational knowledge. Invisible Offenders: A Study Estimating Online Sex Customers seeks to develop a comprehensive research agenda related to exploring the demand for commercial sex in the United States.
The Use of Technology to Recruit, Groom and Sell Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking Victims
With our report on the Use of Technology to Recruit, Groom and Sell Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking Victims, we set out to learn directly from victims how technology was used throughout their trafficking situation. This insight allows us, and others in the field, to create more well-informed programs that speak directly to victims needs.