Self-Generated Child Sexual Abuse Material: Attitudes and Experiences

In this piece, you can explore findings of a 2019 study on children and caregivers' knowledge and experiences of online violence.

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Some define sexting as the creation, transmission, or exchange of youth-produced self-generated sexual images or messages via the internet and mobile phones, while for others it is considered as explicit images that qualify as child pornography, also known as child exploitation material or child sexual abuse images — broadly called CSAM (child sexual abuse materials). Is sexting a malicious, criminal, and exploitative or is it part of consensual relationships between teens in a romantic relationship, even if adults find it risky or morally problematic? These are complicated questions. In this informative research overview, researchers set out to examine attitudes and experiences around self-generated-CSAM.

Thorn and the Benenson Strategy Group spoke to more than1,000 kids, aged 9-17, and 400 caregivers, using a mixed-methods approach. The findings confirm that sexting is a complex and controversial area when it comes to youth safety. Young people had a lot to say. The key findings presented in this research overview are thoughtful and youth-centred indicating that strategies to safeguard young people from the harms need to acknowledge that the behaviour may not always stem from a criminal but rather by teenagers driven by curiosity and naturally inclined to take risks. Still, questions remain on how best to address the harms of self-generated CSAM including the role of gender, how highly vulnerable LGBTQ+ youth experience risk and how best to differentiate between sexting and grooming.

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