SCHOOLCHILDREN as young as 13 are routinely swapping explicit photographs of themselves, an investigation has found.
Teenagers are being subjected to such graphic sexualisation they consider the practices “mundane and mainstream”, researchers said.
One teenage girl reported being asked for “naked pictures” several times a week while a boy said: “You would have seen a girl’s breasts before you’ve seen their face.”
Campaigners warned last night that the sharing of such explicit photographs, known as “sexting”, was corrupting children and could harm their development.
The disturbing claims, to be aired tonight during an investigation by Channel 4 News, came as classification chiefs announced a crackdown on “sexual or sadistic violence”. The British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) announced the policy yesterday to confront public concern over the effect of sex and violence in films on “vulnerable viewers”.
According to pupils interviewed for tonight’s investigation, many admitted they regularly became involved in sexually charged situations to work out who they should date.
The research, based on focus groups with 220 year nine pupils, aged 13 and 14, found they were becoming sexualised at an earlier age because many were able to see pornography online.
One 15-year-old girl claimed boys asked girls to perform specific sexual acts because they had watched them in online pornography. Boys said they turned to online porn sites to learn about sex and relationships because they were not taught decent sex education.
According to the interviews, carried out for the NSPCC and Channel 4’s Generation Sex series, one girl said: “I get asked for naked pictures at least two or three times a week.”
The study found that “sexting” was related to other online issues and draws influence from celebrity and pornography, which is frequently viewed by boys aged 13 and 14.
While many teenage boys admit there is potential for harm, they do not consider that they are affected. Girls of similar age regard pornography as a negative.
One told the programme her father would have asked girls for a kiss when he was her age, “but now it’s kind of – do you want to have sex”.
A boy of a similar age added: “It might shock parents this is what kids get up to but it’s just everyday life. It’s natural.”
A 14-year-old from Berkshire said she received messages asking her to reply with a smiley face if she wanted sex or another phone symbol if she would prefer to perform a sex act on the sender.
“This is mainstream; this is normal, this is almost mundane for some of the people we spoke to,” said Prof Andy Phippen, from Plymouth University, who helped carry out the research.
Jon Brown, from the NSPCC, added: “What we’re seeing is that there is a very regular and normal consumption of hardcore adult pornography – that the sharing of explicit sexual imagery is now extremely normal.”
Last month Parliament was told that easy access to explicit internet pornography by boys has fuelled a rise in the number of girls at school experiencing sexual abuse at the hands of their peers.
MPs heard that sex education should be made a compulsory part of the school curriculum as part of the Government's efforts to stop the exploitation of children.
It is compulsory in England for primary and secondary schools to teach the biological aspects of sex education, but not necessarily the broader subject of sex and relationships.
Andrew Hough Telegraph.co.uk