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Tech Savvy Irish Teens Come Fourth in EU for Sexting

CC0 / / A young girl using her smartphone.
A young girl using her smartphone. - Sputnik International
There has been a rise in teenagers in Ireland sending more naked pictures of themselves on Instagram, Whatsapp and Snapchat in a trend known as "sexting."

"In the past they sent love letters — now they send instant messages," Dr James O'Higgins Norman, director of the Anti-Bullying Research Center told Sputnik.    

"Worryingly, the habit is kicking in earlier, we've found 9 and 10 years old sexting one another."

A recent survey of pupils from 300 Irish secondary schools suggests 14 — 17 year olds are the most frequent sexters, with one in four admitting to sending naked pictures on their cellphone, making Irish teenagers the fourth most frequent sexters in the European Union.

'Brains Aren't Logged On'

"Firstly, Irish teens are technologically literate; they use mobile phones and computers all the time," Dr Norman suggests as one of the reasons why young people send so many explicit messages.

"Irish people have embraced technology in a way people across Europe haven't done. We send more text messages than anyone else in Europe — but we're not teaching young people about modern challenges. It's like their brains aren't logged on," Dr Norman told Sputnik.

"Secondly, we're not teaching them enough about relationships and sexuality in our schools or at home."

Research carried out by the Anti-Bullying Research Center, suggests 50 percent of schools in Ireland don't offer a sex education program — and if they do, only focus on the biological side of sex.

"We need to look at their behavior online in the context of the relationships and sexuality education (RSE) program. Schools aren't talking about the emotional side of things. The programs the schools deliver are not relevant to the challenge society faces with the proliferation of sexting," he said.

Dr Norman also strongly believes parents must take more control over what they're children do on their smartphones. "Fewer than 20 percent of parents monitor what they're children are doing online.

"You wouldn't do that in any other part of your life. You wouldn't do that in a playground but they're allowing their children to play in a virtual playground completely unsupervised."

The most common platforms used by teenagers to send naked selfies are Instagram, WhatsApp and Snapchat, "but that can change every six months," Norman explains, which suggests schools and parents have got a lot of online homework on sexting to catch up on.

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