Social media can be a great place for young people to express themselves and connect with others. However, it does come with risks such as exposure to harmful content, which includes online sexual images or videos. A YouGov and BBFC survey into children’s viewing during lockdown found that a quarter (24%) of 14 year olds see harmful content on a daily basis.
What sexual content could my child see?
It’s no secret that there’s ‘sexy’ pictures and videos all over social media. While nude images violate social media platforms community guidelines, underwear pics and ‘sexy’ poses are allowed. Your child may see influencers, famous celebrities and even their friends posting such photos. Some of these are edited, filtered and manipulated to make the person in the image look ‘better’.
Nude or semi-nude images of adults.
It’s now possible to view pornography without visiting dedicated sites. Young people have reported viewing naked images of adults on popular apps.
Information about how to deal with specific issues related to online porn can be found in our ‘Worried about your child and online porn?’ article.
Nude or semi-nude images of other young people.
Sometimes, nude images of young people are posted publically on social media or in group chats without their consent.
Naked images of under 18s are illegal – situations where images of young people are shared widely should be taken seriously and reported to CEOP. Read our nude selfies article for further information on talking to your child about nude images of young people.
How could this content impact my child?
Young people are often unaware of the impact that these images can have on them, and their attitudes towards sex and relationships.
This may include:
- Viewing women as sex objects. This inquiry into sexual harassment of women and girls in public places highlights the role that social media plays in the stereotypes of women and men. ‘Sexy’ pictures on social media can play a part in women being viewed as sexual objects.
- Influencing sexual behaviours. Viewing naked images of others can have an impact too. The young people in the BBFC research believed viewing pornographic content could influence future sexual behaviours and attitudes. For example, many felt that it could make people less respectful of their partners.
- Negative feelings about their own body. The Royal Society for Public Health found that social media can produce a ‘compare and despair’ attitude. This means that individuals view heavily photo-shopped photographs and videos and compare them to their own bodies. Read practical tips from Internet Matters on what you can do to promote a healthy body image for your child.