This report provides insight into who shares nudes and why. It goes on to explore an ecology of related risks sharers encounter.
This report draws from young people, some with vulnerabilities, in schools across the country and their thoughts and experiences of sharing self-generated explicit images, videos or live streams, and also the risks associated with doing so.
The study, in partnership with Youthworks and the University of Kingston, used a robust dataset of vulnerable young people’s online experiences around sexting and sending nudes and if they faced particular repercussions as a result.
A glimpse of digital relationships today for young people
This briefing paper – part of a series from The Cybersurvey – details both who shares nudes and why. It goes on to explore an ecology of related risks sharers encounter.
Drawn from an anonymous sample of young people in schools across the country, here is a profile of life today as a young person. For some teens, technology enables and facilitates relationships without harm, but others suffer intensely. This complexity is a challenge when teaching online safety.
It should be taught alongside healthy relationships and issues of consent. Emotional health needs drive some teens to overshare, posting images of all types as they seek to be liked, admired or to escape from loneliness. Others tend to take risks online. Sadly, for both, oversharing and signs of neediness are quickly exploited by others.
The annual Cybersurvey by Youthworks explores the rapidly changing lives of young people in the digital environment; tracking trends, advantages and emerging concerns. Data is collected from 11-16-year-olds in schools, colleges and alternative provision every autumn. A small number of 17-year-olds also participated. A youth participation model helps shape the questionnaire and schools are encouraged to debate the results with young people. Local authorities and children’s services use the data to target their efforts and evaluate their services.
14,944 young people took part in the survey in 2019. Of these, 6,045 respondents aged 13 and over answered questions on relationships, meetups and sexting. A limitation is that the sample omits those not in education. In common with all earlier samples of The Cybersurvey, there are more respondents aged 11-13 than 13-16 and over, due to the year groups schools choose to include. However, this large sample provides unique insights for services and policymakers where the focus is on early prevention and support and for those concerned with younger teens becoming caught up in digital relationship problems. The focus on vulnerable groups will be of use to planners and services.
The Cybersurvey team
Adrienne Katz: Youthworks Consulting, Dr Aiman El Asam: Kingston University, London, Sheila Pryde: Youthworks and Fergus Burnett-Skelding: Youthworks.
This sample of 14,994 collected in 2019 includes respondents with a range of abilities and offline vulnerabilities. Multiple vulnerabilities are present in many individuals concurrently.
47% Girls, 47% Boys and 6% those who prefer not to state their gender.
Ages 13 and over
Girls 46%, Boys 47%, 7% prefer not to say or other.
16,092 responses were received. After cleaning 14,994 were used.
Not every respondent gave their age. Young people aged 15 and over are grouped together throughout this report.
The survey questionnaire and associated procedures received a favourable ethical opinion from Kingston University. Schools are invited to take part and given instructions on safeguarding arrangements, privacy and unique codes. Responses are anonymous.
School-level data is not shared publicly. Young people are given information about the anonymous survey and its purpose in advance. They understand that taking part is entirely voluntary, that their answers will help others and that while we would like all questions to be answered, they can opt-out if they wish. They are told how they can find out about the results and thanked.
Helplines are provided at the end of the survey.
This dissemination report commissioned by Internet Matters forms part of a research programme/project in which the authors (Adrienne Katz and Dr Aiman El Asam) are working in partnership with Internet Matters. The project titled “Vulnerability, Online Lives and Mental Health: Towards a New Practice Model” has financial support from the e-Nurture Network and UK Research and Innovation (Research Council Grant Ref: ES/S004467/1).
Sexting has long been said to be ‘endemic’ among teens. However, the picture from those aged over 13 in The Cybersurvey is more nuanced:
See related advice and practical tips to support children online: