Thorn, a tech nonprofit founded in 2012, has discovered in a new study revealing pre-teens are sharing nudes online at a disappointing high rate in percentage.
To protect children from online sexual abuse and exploitation, Thorn studies attitudes and behaviors.
The nonprofit, dedicated to defending children from online sexual exploitation, found that twice as many children between the ages of 9 and 12 reported sending nudes or other Self-Generated Child Sexual Abuse Material (SG-CSAM) in 2020 than in 2019.
Thorn’s recent study titled “Self-Generated Child Sexual Abuse Material: Youth Attitudes and Experiences in 2020” is linked to a few studies focused on monitoring changes in minors’ behaviors and attitudes related to SG-CSAM.
The company’s self-reported data was weighted to age, gender, race, and geography, based on US Census data originating from 2019. In total, 1,002 children (ages 9-17) participated in a 20-minute online survey in 2020.
Results showed sharing of nudes was up across almost all demographics related to gender, age, and sexual identity. Thorn found 17% of all kids ages (ages 9-17) have shared nudes —a 6% increase from 2019. This increase was more pronounced among pre-teens (9-12-year-olds) and boys.
More kids reported sharing nudes, with LGBTQ+ youth nearly three times more likely to share their SG-CSAM than their non LGBTQ+ peers.
“The pandemic has had a profound effect on the lives of children, who are now spending even more time online, and often with less supervision,” said Julie Cordua, CEO of Thorn.
“Our tracking of kids’ changing attitudes and behaviors towards sharing sexually explicit material shows how greater access to technology comes with greater risks, and why parents and caregivers need to be prepared to equip young people with the tools and knowledge to be safe and healthy on the Internet,” she explained.
“It has never been more urgent that we talk with our kids about online safety.”
Thorn’s findings highlighted a growing perception of normalcy around sharing nudes among pre-teen boys in particular. Data proved 1 in 4 boys (ages 9-12) assumed it was “normal” to share nudes— a 10% increase from the prior year.
Secondary accounts (such as “finstas”) made to keep content private was up among 9-12-year-olds who also reportedly showed a drop in regularly following online safety rules.
A significant increase year-over-year is evident, where 37% of kids in Thorn’s 2019 survey had said they shared nudes with someone they only knew online.
Data further showed that among respondents between the ages of 9 and 17 who reported sharing nudes, 50% said they were sending nudes to someone they had never met in real life, and 41% believed they were sending the images to an adult.
The evidence highlights the growing threat of child grooming and exploitation perpetrated by sexual predators online.
Thorn’s research on SG-CSAM began in 2019 with its first report on the attitudes and behaviors of children ages 9 through 17.
In September, Thorn launched Thorn for Parents, a digital resource hub designed to assist parents and caregivers in having earlier, more frequent, and judgment-free conversations with kids about digital safety.
The full report “Self-Generated Child Sexual Abuse Material: Youth Attitudes and Experiences in 2020” can be viewed online here.
Learn more about Thorn’s mission to develop technology to defend children from sexual abuse and eliminate child sex abuse material from the internet at Thorn.org.