Internet Matters x Nominet research: Methods to prevent the spread of self-generated CSAM

A girl lays in bed with a sad expression and her smartphone face down.

In this blog we share findings from Round 2 of our research into the prevention of sexual image-sharing among 11-13-year-olds.

See all updates here.

Review: Efficacy of current prevention

As discussed in our previous blog posts, Round 1 of this research explored the efficacy of prevention messaging and resources aimed at 11 to 13-year-olds.

We reported two major insights into current prevention approaches:

Relationships and Sex Education (RSE) lessons are not cutting through

Additionally, alternative sources of education on nude-sharing are ad-hoc and of varying content and quality.

Statutory RSE lessons aim to equip children with the skills they need to navigate healthy and respectful relationships, both online and off. While the intentions of RSE are generally sound – children told us that large, mixed-gender class groups and non-expert teachers create barriers to learning about sensitive topics, including sexual image-sharing. Children described RSE lessons as ‘awkward’, ‘uncomfortable’, and even a ‘side-show’.

In the absence of adequate education on image-sharing, children told us that they most frequently turned to their peers, older siblings or to social media for advice. Recommendations from these sources were highly varied in quality.

Prevention messages land differently for boys and for girls

This reflects the different pressures that girls and boys face to share nudes.

Boys and girls do not experience the dynamics of nude-sharing equally. For this reason, tailored messaging is needed to cut through.

Girls gravitated towards messaging centred on healthy and unhealthy relationships, and how to identify negative attention and resist pressure to share nudes.

On the other hand, boys wanted clear, unequivocal and unsensational messaging around the consequences of soliciting and sharing nude images. They also expressed a desire for messages about resisting male peer pressure – particularly from older year groups – to procure and distribute sexual images of girls.

About the research

Our research aims to identify delivery methods through which to reach children aged 11-13 with effective prevention messages. Learn more about what it looks like.


What we covered in Round 2

In Round 2 we built upon findings from Round 1, exploring delivery routes with our panels, i.e. the best ways to reach children with the effective messages identified.

We explored various digital interventions such as nudge techniques, ‘gamification’ and social media campaigns, alongside more conventional, in-person methods such as classroom resources and ‘whole school approaches’ to tackling nude-sharing.

Some clear ‘favourites’ emerged. However – as with Round 1 – there was a degree of nuance in reactions to the delivery methods, with views varying by gender and other characteristics such as special education needs/additional learning needs (SEN/ALN). All methods that ranked highly came with caveats, which we explore below.

The importance of gendered classroom discussions

Despite the poor RSE offer that most children currently receive, there is still appetite for high-quality classroom sessions on sensitive topics, including nude-sharing.

The quality of classroom teaching was dependent on a number of factors, including:

  • Experience and knowledge of the teacher: teachers should have specific training on sex education topics including intimate image-exchange.
  • Size and gender makeup of groups: children want gender-specific discussions on, for example, healthy relationships and resisting male peer pressure.
  • Opportunities for discussion and reflection: as opposed to one-way teaching via PowerPoint, which offers little space to share and discuss experiences.
  • Adequate time: sessions shouldn’t feel ‘rushed’ or constrained by the timetable.

Generally, children were averse to ‘whole-school approaches‘ to tackling image-sharing, immediately associating this approach with assemblies, which generally fail to land.

Whole-school approaches ranked in the bottom three options among all 17 young person panels (coming bottom of the table in 10 groups). For this reason, whole-school approaches have been excluded from further testing (despite evidence of the positive impacts of well-resourced, planned and delivered whole-school strategies to harmful sexual behaviour).

Reaching a wider audience via digital techniques

While children recognised that digital interventions lacked the tailored and more personal aspect of in-person interventions, they saw the value in digital methods to reach a large number of children with prevention messages.

Nudge techniques

Ranked highly among girls in mainstream settings. Nudges can contain tailored messages for boys and for girls, alongside signposts to further resources and sources of support.

Boys ranked nudge techniques less highly – but for the reason that they find nudges ‘annoying’ and that they add friction to their behaviour on platforms. This feedback could perhaps be taken as an indicator of the efficacy of nudges – in providing a circuit breaker to potentially risky or harmful behaviour.

Social media campaigns

Social media campaigns also ranked highly – among both boys’ and girls’ panels. However, children noted that the effectiveness of social media-led campaigns perhaps come into force after an individual has been involved in an incident involving non-consensual image sharing.

Children felt that the relevance and effectiveness of a social media campaign in preventing nude sharing are limited – they told us they would simply swipe past a video if the message didn’t immediately resonate. For this reason, we have excluded social media campaigns from further testing.


Gamification was the method ranked most highly by boys. Children rated the interactivity of gamification highly, and its ability in allowing individuals to explore decisions and consequences in a safe environment.

What's next?

We will test a high-quality classroom session – tailored for girls, boys and for children with SEN/ALN – with our panels in Round 3. The lesson will contain a gamification element – with separate routes to illustrate boys’ and girls’ experiences – allowing children to explore the consequences, pressures and decision-making involved in nude image-exchange.

Both iterations of the game can be played by boys and by girls, giving players an opportunity to develop awareness and empathy for other experiences and the pressures that children of the alternate gender may face.

Alongside the classroom resource, we will also test a nudge technique with tailored messages and signposting for girls and boys – reflective of the gendered pressures faced by 11 to 13-year-olds to procure, share and distribute nudes. The nudge will provide ‘in-the-moment’ prevention, when a platform detects that a child intends to share a nude image or video.

We will share insights from our final Round 3 panels in March.

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