D: Young people's agency and the responsibility to protect

Thursday 24 May, 11.00 - 13.00

Moderator: Carl Göran Svedin, Linköping University and ROBERT


Mary Aiken
Research Fellow, Cyberpsychologist
Institute of Leadership
Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland,

Mike Berry
Clinical Forensic Psychologist
Manchester Metropolitan University

Ciaran O Boyle
Professor of Psychology,
Head of RCSI Institute of Leadership

Behavioural Escalation Online: Self-Generated Content

The uploading of self-generated inappropriate material by Internet users, including many children and adolescents is a recent and growing phenomenon. This behaviour can escalate, resulting in children and young people engaging in increasingly risky behaviour (Leary, 2010; Wolak, Finkelhor, & Mitchell, 2011). This can even lead individuals to generate and distribute images of themselves that are similar to material generated by child abusers (Quayle & Jones, 2011). The aim of this preliminary study is to develop an empirical methodology to classify self-generated images. 200 cases, relating to inappropriate self-generated images, investigated by UK police forces between 2009 and 2012 will be examined. Subjects will be anonymised and classified by, inter alia, gender, age and ethnic group. Images will be classified according to the COPINE scale and will also be evaluated by raters using a new measure specifically developed for the study: the Self-Generated Image Analysis Template (S.G.I.A.T). The study will seek to identify the risks and consequences of this type of cyber-behaviour and the psychological factors that influence motivation and self-presentation. The explanatory value of the new construct of “Aspirational Affect” (younger females and possibly males trying to present themselves as being older) will be evaluated. It is anticipated that the findings will be relevant for police forces, legal professionals, practitioners, parents/guardians and statutory bodies concerned with the development and safety of children and adolescents in the internet age.

This research is supported by the Child Abuse Command of the Metropolitan Police, the INTERPOL Specialists Group on Crimes Against Children and by the RCSI Institute of Leadership.

Leary, M. (2010). Sexting or Self-Produced Child Pornography? The Dialogue Continues – Structured Prosecutorial Discretion within a Multidisciplinary Response. Virginia Journal of Social Policy and the Law, Vol. 17, No. 3, Spring 2010. SSRN. doi:10.2139/ssrn.1657007

Quayle, E., & Jones, T. (2011). Sexualized images of children on the Internet. Sexual abuse : a journal of research and treatment, 23(1), 7-21. doi:10.1177/1079063210392596


Linda Jonsson (Presenter)
Ph D Student
University of Linköping

Giesela Priebe
Psychologist, Ph D
Dept. of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, IKVL
Lund University

Voluntary sexual exposure online among Swedish youth [PDF]

 The presentation will focus on results from a resent study regarding voluntary sexual exposure online. The purpose of the study was to investigate Swedish youth with experience of voluntary sexual exposure online, with regard to Internet behavior, social background and psychosocial health including parent- child relation. A representative sample of 3 503 Swedish youth in their third year of high school completed an anonymous survey about Internet behavior, Internet-related sexual harassment, sexuality, health and sexual abuse. Out of the youth taking part in the survey, 20.9% (19.2% boys and 22.3% girls) reported experiences of voluntary sexual exposure online. Major differences were found between the index and the reference group regarding Internet behavior. Few differences were found regarding social background but the voluntary sexual exposure online was associated with lower psychosocial health and poorer parent- child relationship. The study shows that there is a need for parents and professionals to better understand what young people do on the Internet and the risks they may incur.


Naureen Kahn
National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, NSPCC

Jon Brown
National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, NSPCC

'Sexting': Young people living in the online and offline world [PDF]



To explore how 'sexting' is practised and experienced by a diverse sample of young people. Our emphasis is upon understanding the qualitative dimensions of ‘sexting’ and the meanings it is given by young people themselves. ‘Sexting’ is defined in a broad way combining a focus on mobile phones and internet usage to explore the exchange of sexually explicit content through mobile technologies.  


This pilot study was conducted in two inner-city state schools in London, UK from June-August 2011. We worked across years 8 and 10 with 8 single-gender focus groups, following up with online ethnography and 20 individual case study interviews. We conducted 10 school staff interviews.


Our findings suggest that 'sexting' is inextricably linked to offline experiences, with the sending, receiving, saving and sharing of sexually explicit pictures one of the ways hierarchies of gender and popularity are maintained in young people's social lives. 'Sexting' was differently experienced and understood in relation to social positions of gender, class and 'race'. We found that technology was just one way that sexism and bullying were experienced, with participants equally concerned about incidents in the 'real world' such as sexual harassment (touching up, name-calling), peer pressure (to buy goods or be sexually ‘experienced’) and violence (fighting).  


Our study suggests that mobile technologies can be a useful tool for young people, but are bound up in relationships of power that exist in the online and offline world. Comparisons with research we are conducting elsewhere suggests young people's experiences also vary by location. More research is needed to understand young people and 'sexting' across the UK. Some policy implications are the need for 'sexting' to be included in the recently announced review of Personal Health and Social Education in the UK school curriculum and for our developing understanding of the issue to inform the development of Sex and Relationships Education in schools.