LOS ANGELES, Feb. 9, 2023 /PRNewswire/ — New research on youth attitudes from Thorn, a nonprofit that builds technology to defend children from sexual abuse, found that 22 percent of kids report having online sexual interactions with adults—the same percentage of kids who report having sexual interactions with peers their own age – in 2021.
The survey findings also suggest that online safety tools and features – like blocking and reporting – are insufficient in helping kids avoid these harmful online interactions.
The research, Responding to Online Threats: Minors’ Perspective on Disclosing, Reporting, and Blocking in 2021, builds on Thorn’s 2020 report on the same topic and aims to help inform online platforms’ implementation of effective, accessible, and co-created safety tools and features—ones that incorporate the voices of youth and the reality of their lived experiences.
Other significant takeaways from the report include:
- Kids overwhelmingly prefer online tools when addressing potentially harmful online sexual interactions. In response to potentially harmful online sexual interactions, youth were 2 ½ times as likely to use online support tools—such as blocking or reporting—than to seek offline support from a parent or peer.
- Blocking tools remain kids’ most used online safety feature in controlling potentially harmful online interactions. 68% of kids blocked users when experiencing potentially harmful online interactions, while 50% used a reporting feature, 23% muted the users, and just 15% ignored them.
- Existing online safety tools were insufficient in stopping abusive users. Kids reported the online safety tools like blocking and reporting they used were insufficient in preventing a harasser from re-contacting them. Approximately half of the children who utilized online safety tools experienced recontacts from online harassers. One in six kids who reported a user indicated their report was never resolved.
- For many minors, the COVID-19 pandemic is associated with increased online sexual interactions. Among minors who reported they have had an online sexual interaction, about 1 in 2 indicated online sexual interactions like being asked to send nude imagery of themselves or being sent sexual messages happened more during the pandemic with both adults and peers
- Youth from marginalized groups reported the highest levels of continued online harassment. LGBTQ+, African American, Hispanic, and Latino kids noted the highest rates of recontacts from problematic users they had previously blocked or reported.