The Naked Truth

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"One in five teen girls (22%), nearly as many teen boys (18%) and one-third (33%) of young adults say they have electronically sent, or posted online, nude or semi-nude photographic or video images of themselves."

That was the scary and raw research delivered by The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy and in a study entitled, Sex & Tech. You can expect this news to makes its way through the regular mass media channels as a call to arms on the dangers of the online channels, privacy, mobile devices, the Internet and the new reality that younger people are more connected than ever and may not understand the long term implications of being able to publish anything at anytime to one another (and the world).

If we move beyond the images and videos, the numbers get just as raw and unnerving. Here’s what was reported today on Marketing Charts for the news item titled, One in Five Teens Sends Sexually Explicit Images:

"On the receiving end of the messages, 48% of teens and 64% of young adults (56% total) say they have gotten a sexually suggestive message from someone else. Among young teen girls (age 13-16), one-third have received such messages. The research also finds that sexually suggestive images are frequently passed around and shown to friends: One-third (33%) of teen boys and one-fourth(25%) of teen girls say they have had nude/semi-nude images–originally intended to be private–shared with them. What teens and young adults are doing electronically seems to have an effect on what they do in real life, the survey found. Nearly one-quarter of teens (22%) say that technology makes them personally more forward and aggressive. Moreover, more than one-third of teens (38%) say exchanging sexy content makes dating or hooking up with others more likely, and nearly one-third of teens (29%) believe those exchanging sexy content are ‘expected’ to date or hook up."

Even if this content is going from one person to another, we’ve seen enough hijacked Sidekicks to know that the general rule of thumb must be: if you email it, you have to expect that it will be made public. Which is sad.

One of the more fascinating areas of these new digital channels is privacy and how it is changing. Young people – who have never known a world where everything they say and do is not posted on a Wall or tweeted – are going to define privacy in a very different way than we do. Digital Natives see things dramatically different (for further proof of this, check out the article from New York Magazine, Say Everything). All of this is going to make do-not-call registries and the like seem very rudimentary.

The bigger question: is this going to make people recoil and seek a much higher level privacy, or are we going to continue down this path where all of our lives become open books in online social networks and the like? 


  1. I think people who have grown up with the internet being a part of their lives have a completely different definition of privacy.
    When you combine teenagers with raging hormones, an exhibitionistic culture and tech that makes taking pictures of yourself a 2-second process, of COURSE you’re going to have this kind of behavior happening. I don’t necessarily even think there’s anything inappropriate about it. Irreponsible, yes, but thats hardly the most irresponsible thing that teenagers throughout history have tried.
    Theres a whole other post to be had about America’s puritanical sexual attitudes and being ashamed of our bodies, etc, but possibly not twistimage appropriate πŸ™‚

  2. there’s also something to be said about having parts in both ends of the viewer/viewee relationship. it’s what i exemplify with gossip girl (really!) when i’m presenting about this whole thing: you may be the one taking the picture one day, and the other day you may be the one having our picture taken. it changes the way one views “privacy” becuase the fourth wall – and the fifth, sixth, and seventh – have all been broken. so what’s privacy when the very mechanism that presents you back to yourself is the one you use to find out about other people?

  3. It is so refreshing to see this web post.
    All of you in this industry have an incredible position to make a real difference in this issue.
    Kids Help Phone is in a unique situation to really understand what kids are saying about this issue, so check out this report:
    It is an analysis of responses from kids, off our website, and incorporates significant research done by leading experts in the study of online behaviours.
    It tells a compelling story about the ways our young people are interacting online and provides a snapshot of the ways children and youth in Canada are building relationships and socializing through this ever-evolving medium.
    The report’s main goal is to highlight the gaps between what kids know about online safety and their online practices. It is our hope that this report will help inform emerging policies, education and technology.
    All of you in this industry are in a fantastic position to help make a difference in the lives of Canadian children and youth. It is important that we as adults work together with technology providers, educators, social service providers and our children to ensure that young people are staying safe online.

  4. One of the main problem behind such kind of act is that, now teens & young adult are more advanced in tech than there parents. So there parents are not aware of such kinds of act. At last these teens & young adult end up doing such kind of act. Regarding “privacy” they should be educated about up to what extent they should expose their personal life in public, since now growing tech spread things like wildfire.

  5. I think we as adults are failing in this:- we’re not even aware of the problem so we haven’t even started to address it.
    On one hand, I’m a particularly private person – don’t share much – but on the other hand, I don’t do anything that would upset me if it was public, and I don’t feel that I could be threatened by anyone making public anything about me.
    So, do I let my children define their own version of privacy and what’s appropriate to share with others, etc, but try and keep them cognisant of the possible consequences of their actions? Unfortunately, no-one is that prescient, particularly not a hormonal teenager – what’s appropriate for them at the time, may certainly not be later in life. πŸ™‚

  6. I think kids will always find new ways to push the sexual boundaries, each generation pushed it one step further. If it wasn’t online nudity, it would be something else.
    But for us pre-internet adults, the other reason we value privacy is because we are worried about who is out there that will abuse of this information and come and stalk us or our kids.
    8-10 years ago, I was one of the first people i knew to have a “personal website” containing my resume and a bit about my life. Others around me were shocked that i would make this information public.
    8-10 years ago, not many people had a website, so my info was probably easier to be found by predators. Today, EVERYONE is one facebook, and if you think you have scandalous pictures of yourself, don’t worry, someone probably has worse.
    Suddenly. you become anonymous in this sea of personal information.
    So, i wonder, are our traditional fears still rational? Online predators exist, we know that, but if EVERYONE is sharing their information, doesn’t it make it harder for them to find YOUR kid?
    Has private information become less valuable and more of a commodity?

  7. So lets say we don’t need to waste energy trying to keep a grain of sand from hitting the beach.
    Being able to say theres a problem or I don’t like this is a lot easier than giving a solution. Maybe part of the reason teens are doing this to rebel as a teen, be funny, explore something taboo.
    Society shouldn’t parent kids parents should parent kids. Its hard to say generally whose to blame the parent or the kid. But there are just some things you can’t control.

  8. Its great that there are resources for kids to reach out to, such as Kids Help Phone. The fact that such information is being exchanged and put into the public domain is scary to say the least. I am the father of two young ones and I wonder how I am going to deal with the internet as they grow older. I think that responsibility lies in the parents. I remember as a teen my friends and I found a `dirty magazine’ and we hid it in my garage. Well my parents found it and explained to me the issues surronding pornography. I feel that parents who are in the dark about the internet should learn more so that they converse with their teenagers. That said, I still have friends who are scared to join Facebook, maybe they are right to be scared but today its a necessary evil.

  9. And rock and roll was the degradation of youth. It was supposed to do the same harm and damage wasn’t it?
    older generation: I don’t know
    my generation: I’m not going to recoil.
    younger generation: I don’t know
    It all depends on who these ‘people’ are. Generational conversations like this are difficult. Because one generation uses broad strokes over another ( in either direction )
    This kind of discussion can only be had if every generation is present and listened to.
    Idea: Might be really cool to hear in a podcast.

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