Responding to Online Threats: Minors’ Perspectives on Disclosing, Reporting, and Blocking


Research is increasingly suggesting that sharing “nudes” is becoming a common behavior among young people. Thorn’s 2019 SG-CSAM Report found that approximately 40% of teens believed it was “normal for people my age to share nudes with each other” and a 2020 comparison study suggests this behavior is on the rise.

These experiences – while for some a normative form of sexual exploration – are not without significant risk. Unfortunately, the 2019 report also found young people lack trust in the protective systems around them, both in-person and online, for support as they navigate this topic. Concerns of being blamed, shamed, or ignored are isolating victims and putting them at greater or prolonged risk.

For many, the first line of defense in responding to an online threat is platform-based safety tools such as blocking and reporting. However, participants in the 2019 research – particularly those who reported having shared their own nudes – expressed a general distrust of online platforms’ security features.

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?

In 2020, Thorn launched another wave of youth-centered research, surveying 1,000 minors, ages 9-17, about their attitudes and experiences around blocking and reporting instances of potentially harmful online sexual interactions.

Return to Thorn’s research.