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One in 10 mid-teens had sexual images shared without their consent


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More than one in 10 young people aged between 15 and 18 have had sexual images of themselves shared online once or more, according to a cyberbullying and 'sexting' expert.

Dr Mairéad Foody, the principal investigator of a national study on cyberbullying and sexting in young people, raised the issue at the World Anti-Bullying Forum at Dublin City University (DCU).

Ms Foody, a research fellow with the Anti-Bullying Research and Resource Centre (ABC) at the university, said: "24pc of young people between 15 and 18-years-old said they had shared a sexual image to someone by choice.

"Most said this was with someone their own age, or someone they were in a relationship with.

"That's not that scary, as that's part of a relationship. But when we asked if anyone had had a sexual image of themselves shared non-­consensually - of that same age group, 13pc said that had happened once or more. That is the scary part.

"That young person may have taken the original image or video and sent it to a partner and it may have been passed on later, when they have broken up or it might have been a photo or video of someone that was taken without consent."

Ms Foody told the Irish Independent after the conference that this work was based on a pilot of 900 young people and had shown the issue was "not about parents learning technological skills", but recognising that despite technology, being open with young people was the way to combat such negative online behaviour.

"It's happening, there's nothing we can do about that but we need to open dialogue with our young people and talk about consent," Ms Foody said.

According to the pilot study, when young people in this age bracket had an image shared without their consent, 48pc told no one.

Ms Foody said schools needed to tackle this issue too and listen to young people.

A former special adviser to Minister Richard Bruton who now works as director of public policy for Microsoft told the conference Irish people last year witnessed increased exposure to online risks via unwanted contact.

Ciarán Conlon said the company's research had examined risks across reputational, behavioural, sexual and personal and intrusive nature.

Mr Conlon said while it was "good news" the international trend fell, according to its Digital Civility Index (DCI) Ireland was more affected by the issue last year than in 2017.

Irish Independent