The NSPCC released a study yesterday that is being picked up by the media today. If you haven't read it, I'd encourage you to do so: it's a sobering read:
A qualitative study of children, young people and 'sexting' - NSPCC
What I don't encourage you to do is just read the media reports on it, because as usual they have picked up on the worst aspects of the study and almost completely ignored the context. That isn't to say that what the study reports on is not shocking, because it is, but in my mind the incredibly limited scope of the study throws serious doubt on how typical the behaviour they found truly is.
The study covered a grand total of 2 London schools, and does itself state:
"Caution" is not the word I'd use. The schools were hand-picked by the researchers, and while they claim to cover a wide range of cultural backgrounds, and were in mixed socio-economic status population areas, the report crucially states that "both schools are located in geographical areas associated with gang activity and crime". At the risk of sounding prejudiced, that's exactly the sort of area I'd expect to find the worst sorts of behaviour that they did in fact find, and I strongly suspect the researchers knew that very well when they picked those schools.While we believe that the findings that emerged are far from unique to the two year groups studied in two schools, considerable caution is needed before making any generalisations to other groups.
As an example of the worst case scenario, it's excellent. But I would not use it to make generalisations at all, let alone with caution.
Last edited by AngryTechnician; 16th May 2012 at 04:30 PM.
They counter this in the opening pages, where they discuss the background to the study; as they state, many quantitative studies have been done (online surveys etc.) but up till now, no qualitative studies wherein they dig deeper into it. From the opening brief (I'm still reading through "a review of research literature") it seems like they've gone more into the motives and patterns behind the activity, rather than just try to gather a picture of what activity goes on; this is where their headline finding, that most such activity is peer-driven rather than stranger driven, comes from.
From what I've read so far, as well, that's a worthwhile finding. A lot of online safety teaching is geared around "stranger danger" (still) but if sexting is driven by peers, as it would be, it needs an entirely different approach. And as they say, there's an inherent difficulty in approaching such a peer-driven issue, because in anyone class you will have victims, perpertrators and bystanders all mixed up, and it's very difficult to get the message through to all of them at once.
I still hate the word "sexting" as well. Awful neologism.
I'll drop some interesting news stories in here tomorrow, as well as some more thoughts, but for now, after an hour and a half of academy conversion consultation, it's home time.
GrumbleDook (16th May 2012)
Not sure I think it's hyperbole - there aren't many Inner London secondary schools which aren't in geographical areas associated with gang activity and crime - they would have had to go out of their way to find one that isn't. London Street Gang Maps seems pretty accurate to me, certainly South and East areas that I know. Danah Boyd has a more reflective take on it - but I don't think there's much question it's commonplace, something most kids have to navigate, now. Strange times.
I haven't the time or inclination to read all 76 pages, but what I read I actually found quite intriguing, and think that despite their narrow base of research, I think they found the problem fairly well.
Half the conversations of kids I've overheard over the last 5 years revolve around these topics. I've heard 8/9/10 year olds discussing who their girl/boyfriends are (though it is fairly rare, it's certainly not widespread), 11-13 year olds boasting about who they snogged last night, and I won't even go there what I've read/heard from the 14-16 year olds...
Maybe I'm being naive, but I don't really think this is much of a problem on the grand scale. I think back to what it was like 10/15/20 years ago in school, and I dont see a lot of changes, only difference now is that social circles are probably wider and larger than they were thanks to the internet; mostly I was friends with people I was in school with or lived on my street. Now, children can have 'friends' on the other side of the globe that speak to eachother more than I do with my wife most days! Heckling happened in the noisy class or the playground, and you discussed who was going to ask out who for the disco.
A lot of my friends had 'girlfriends' by the age of 12 (ah the wonders of 'behind the bikesheds', lovebites and snogging!), I had my first girlfriend at 14, and met my wife at the age of 15. And I was one of the slowest of the group to 'pair up' with anyone...
There's always going to be pressures to fit in, but ignoring the anomalies, I think most kids are still kids. The only difference is access is greater now.
e-safety and sex ed has fixed a lot of the issues. Outright banning most of these things only makes it worse, but education of the issues means that these things will cease to become problems eventually.
Nothing in that report suprises me in the least, and having left high school almost 10 years ago now, I remember much of that being the case back then as well. Mobile phones were still fairly new at the time (or at least, ones small enough to smuggle into school in a backpack unnoticed!) and I recall lots of guys and girls texting each other, sometimes quite awful things (bullying), sometimes sexual things, and so on. It's not a new phenomenon, it's just being brought into the spotlight now.
At the risk of sounding irresponsible, I find it laughable that adults, here, now, in 2012, still expect every 'child' under the age of 16 to be innoncent to the ways of the world. It's ridiculous. At 15/16 I had my first girlfriend/kiss, and I was *very* late to the stage comapred to most others in my peer groups, and that was simply because I wasn't one to give in to peer pressures most of the time (also, I had computer games to play, why would I want to waste time listening to a girl talk? :P )
Society has changed, but a lot of society's values have not - part of the problem. We're all happy to have facebook, twitter, hand out mobile phones to our kids and let them go to under-18 disco nights, yet we expect them to somehow take responsabliity for all those things and at the same time keep them away from the "nasty" parts. It's just not living in the real world.
The younger generations that we see as "children" see us as "the old boring people".
While we run ourselves into the ground with stress and worry about keeping our precious offspring innocent and safe, they're off having all the fun!
They're pretty much not doing anything more than we did at school. The difference is they're twitting, texting and facebooking about it.
Considering the sort of things we used to get up to as kids, we'd be in Guantanamo Bay if we did it in the current climate of OMG TERRAR! and social media.
Have to say I'm a little surprised by the number of people saying the same things went on when they were at school. I don't remember girls being held down and molested, or boys collecting pictures of girls chests with their name written on them and using them for blackmail. Am I the only one whose secondary school wasn't full of perverts?
GrumbleDook (17th May 2012)
As for the blackmailing thing, it wasn't photos but boys would publically mock someone for a "I like you" note they were passed, or love letter they found slid into their locker. Though saying that I do recall someone in my year group being in trouble for being caught holding a disposable camera under the desk during lessons to snapshot girls in skirts!
We have to remember though, that this is teenagers doing this to other teenagers - they are responsible for what they are doing, no-one else. Far as I'm concerned, if a girl is daft enough to write something on her chest and send a photo to someone / let someone photograph it, then she is just as at fault as the person who then shares that around.
So she may be at fault, yes, but she is not to blame. This is what the report is for - to tell us how we need to approach the matter and better educate and support children with it. They need telling, sympathetically, that it is not normal behaviour - even the literature reviewed at the beginning of the report shows that only a minority of teenagers do get involved directly with this activity, but I warrant that if you asked a group how prevalent they thought it was, the perception would be much, much higher.
There is an aspect of teenagers being teenagers, and an integral part of that is sexual and emotional experimentation - they are the foundations of who you become as an adult. I'm absolutely delighted, though, that no evidence of my painful adolescence remains to me or anyone else - they were important, formative experiences, and absolutely shape who I am today (for better or for worse), but none of those stumbling steps into maturity follow me round today. Modern teenagers, though, with these photos shared so freely and widely, may never escape some of these early missteps. The mistakes may be the same, but the stage taht they are presented on is orders of magnitude greater. Can you show us any of the "I like you" notes you talk about, or even name anyone from your old school who was mocked for such a note? In comparison, with Facebook's new timeline, I could go back 5 years ago on my profile in three clicks and dig up some awful stuff - and that was after I'd finished being teenage, as well.
Right, finally finished reading it. Everyone should read pages 7 & 8 for the summary, and pages 55 & 56 for the recommended actions for schools, and you should encourage your various pastoral-types to do the same as well.
Key points I've taken away from it: it's important to deal with the topic earlier rather than later, as the Year 8s were reporting daily harassment, but by Year 10 the girls had built up some resiliency and cynicism around the issue. I'm not saying it's fine to leave KS4 to get on with it, just that the younger students need the support more.
The activity has become normalised for a large proportion of the students, certainly the boys, even though it's only a minority directly involved (going by the statistics quoted from earlier quantitative studies). Breaking down the normalisation will probably make a significant difference towards stigmatising the activity. The normalisation probably also contributes to the acceptance of constant physical harrassment reported, which is frankly terrifying if it's at the levels discussed.
There's also a large discrepancy between how boys perceive girls who take such photos of themselves (even when it's the boys who've pressured them into it) and their perception of doing it themselves (Facebook photos of six-packs etc.). The boys challenged about this dissonance in the report didn't have a good come back to it, so challenging them on these grounds may also prove fruitful.
It's clear as well that girls really can't win - if they don't partake, they're called frigid, if they do, they're instantly known as a slut, and once they've given in in any way - with an image, or a written message - they are then blackmailed into further activity.
This point from page 55 is also very relevant to anyone here (emphasis mine):
In summary: well worth a read. Certainly food for thought, given the fundamental shift in nature from strangers to peers in driving the activity.7. One means of taking this recommendation forward would be to recommend that, in whatever part of the curriculum addresses teenagers’ developing sexual identity and activity, the role played by today’s technology (in expressing, negotiating, and sharing experiences) should be explicitly included. Dealing with problematic sexting, then is as much a matter for the IT teacher as it is for the sex education teacher.
It also made me feel properly old when I had no idea what "screen munching" was, probably the first technical slang term I've come across and not known. The internet has finally left me behind at the ripe old age of 27
EDIT: oh, and one of the stories I mentioned earlier (albeit not the one I was thinking of): How a fake Justin Bieber "sextorted" hundreds of girls through Facebook | Ars Technica. Not quite the same, as it was perpertrated by an older sex offender, but it centres around the blackmail aspect of the matter, and how it spirals downwards once a single photo has been sent.
Last edited by sonofsanta; 18th May 2012 at 12:16 PM. Reason: Link to story
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