MTV’s Take on Online Safety

MTV has released its A Thin Line campaign to stop the spread of digital abuse. Interestingly, in the “about us” section, it specifically mentions “forced sexting” as opposed to sexting in general. An interesting distinction considering even voluntary sexting covers its own risks such as unwanted forwarding of the picture (more than a third of teens report getting pictures meant for someone else according to the infamous sexting study by CosmoGirl) and even charges of child pornography.

Meanwhile, MTV has released its own data about digital abuse in youth and young adults through age 24. While I wish they reported the age categories separately, some interesting findings include:

  • 1/4 of respondents state they know about an incident where somone took a picture or video of another doing “embarrassing or private things without that person knowing” and then shared them without permission.
  • 18% received naked images of another on their cell or over email
  • 11% were “pressured” to send a naked pic or video of themselves
  • 3% reported posting naked pictures of themselves

While interesting, I look forward to a more thorough analysis of the data. Stay tuned!

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Sexting — get the facts right!

This article from a smaller Minnesota paper highlights the same sexting research that all other news stories cover. However, I am calling this one out because of the inaccuracies of its reporting.

For example, the article quotes the following statistics:

  • One in five teen girls ages 13 to 16 say they have electronically sent or posted nude or semi-nude photos of themselves online
  • 33 percent of teenage boys ages 13 to 16 and 25 percent of teenage girls have had nude or semi-nude images – that were meant to be private – shared with them

Looking more closely at the survey itself, the numbers in this article are flat-out misreported. According to the actual report, 11% of 13-16 year-old girls have electronically sent or posted nude or semi-nude photos of themselves online. I can’t find within the report the parallel number for boys, but for all teen boys, the rate is 18% (compared to 22% of all teen girls, not just the younger ones).

The 33% of boys and 25% of girls who are sharing pictures is for all teens, aged 13-19, not for those aged 13-16. I could not find a separate statistic for the younger teens.

So, once again, news trumps accuracy in its attempts to send readers into panics. While I am not saying that the true numbers are to be ignored, I am saying that honest reporting of the issue would be a helpful step towards framing our approach to working constructively with youth to encourage safe and smart technology use.