Children admit ‘sexting’ but believe classmates do it more

Date published: 30 March 2017

One in eight Greater Manchester school children aged 14 to 15 has admitted sending sexually explicit messages or images on their mobile phones. Even more children – one in five – admitted they have received ‘sext’ messages or images.

However, the perception among children is that sexting is more common amongst others and one third believed that most of their classmates were sending and receiving ‘sexts’.

‘Are they being heard?’ reveals the initial results of a ‘social norms’ survey, being funded by the Home Office, of all Year 10 pupils in Greater Manchester schools. The survey led by Donna Peach, Lecturer in Social Work at the University of Salford, has explored young people’s perception of child sexual exploitation and associated behaviour.

The interim results show a difference between reality and perception of what is ‘normal’.

  • 12.4 per cent of Year 10s admitted sending a sext message or image themselves but one third (28 per cent) believed that most of their peers were sending them.
  • 22 per cent of Year 10s admitted receiving either a sext message or image but 34 per cent thought that most Year 10s had received one.

The survey also exposes confusion and fear amongst young people about pressures.

  • 40 per cent of Year 10s were unsure or frightened of being rejected by peers if they talked to them about being pressurised to have sex. However 56 per cent were unsure whether their peers would be scared of friends rejecting them.
  • A third (34 per cent) did not know or were unsure who to talk to if they felt someone was being pressured into having sex. But 64 per cent were unsure if their peers would know who to turn to.

Ann Coffey MP says in the report: “Young people are very keen to ‘fit in’ and perception of what their peers are doing is an important factor in influencing and shaping their behaviour. They are under massive pressures in today’s world with increased sexualisation of children and 24/7 access to the internet.

“This is a very valuable piece of research because perception of what is a social norm is powerful as it becomes a pressure on children and young people to follow suit and yet it is often not based in reality.”

Ms Coffey wants social norms studies to be on going in Greater Manchester to help ‘bust myths’ and ‘misconceptions’.

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