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Teens with disability more likely to be subjected to sexting

A recent study published by Netsafe found that young disabled adults were more likely to be subjected to sexting than those without impairments. These findings are perhaps not surprising, but this is the first time in New Zealand that we have had quantitative evidence of the issue.

The New Zealand study was carried out by online survey of 1,001 teens aged 14 to 17, and made comparisons between different ethnic groups, age groups, girls and boys, and with those who self-identify as having a long-term disability.

The full paper including detailed methodology and results can be found at https://www.netsafe.org.nz/young-people-sexting-report/

What is ‘sexting’?
There are varying schools of thought on sexting, from it being a harmless activity undertaken within a romantic relationship, and an extension of normal intimate communication in a digital age, to a high-risk behaviour that requires intervention and prevention, some say with legal remedy.

This study defined “sexting” as:

An act or practice related to sending, receiving, requesting or being asked for mostly, but not always, self-generated nude or nearly nude images or video through digital tools and/or platforms. Such behaviour may arise from a range of reasons and contexts (e.g. consensual or non-consensual creation or sharing, relationship building, sexual self-exploration, volunteering an image, being asked for one, peer pressure, flirting, sexual exploration, coercion or extortion of content, intimidation or other abuse).

The key take-outs of the general survey findings are that:

  • reassuringly, although 20% of the total survey participants had been asked  to share nude or nearly nude images/video, only 4% had done so
  • older teens, aged 17, were nearly twice as likely (7%) to have sent nude or nearly nude content than those aged 14-17
  • girls in the survey were more likely to have been asked for nude content than boys, 24% versus 14%; they were also more likely to have received it
  • prevalence of sexting was higher among Māori and Pacific teens – it was more common for both these groups to have been asked for nude images/video and Māori were the most likely group to have received unsolicited nude or nearly nude content (1 in 4).

Some of the key findings in relation to young disabled adults are below. When asked whether they had:

  • received nude or nearly nude images or videos they did not ask for; 25% of those with disability said yes, versus 17% of those without disability;
  • been asked for nude or nearly nude images or videos of themselves in the last 12 months; 23% of those with disability said yes, versus 18% of those without disability;
  • been asked for that same type of content of someone else, again, this was higher for teens with disability, 9% compared with 4%.

In conclusion, sexting is a topic of public and media interest, and should be a consideration for policy makers and practitioners working in the youth and disability sectors.

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