According to a story in the British newspaper “The Independent,” a new research study conducted by Dr. Joan Atwood reveals that 10% of girls between the ages of 8-13 had been asked intimate sexual questions in chatrooms and more than a third have had sexually explicit messages, photos and/or videos on their phones.
The study involved youth from Britain, Canada, Australia, and the US who were recruited in chatrooms. It appears to be the first study that asks younger girls about sex-related activities online.
Two things about this study come to mind. First, it was not conducted in the US. This is most likely because the US is not willing to consider the fact that children not even into their teens are being exposed to sexual messages to the extent that they are.
Second, playing off this theme of denial, this story was not reported in any US-based publication that I am aware of (I subscibe to several news alerts and like to think I scan the Internet extensively, actively seeking this information). It appears that no news is good news.
We can only hope that our country will be able to investigate issues such as these from a national perspective. There is no use pretending young people are not exposed to sexual material — there is no pretending that young people are not the creators of this sexual material. But how will we know what is really going on if we are not allowed to ask?