A doubling in the percentage of children ages 9-12 who shared their own nude pictures online should spark dramatic action by parents and the entertainment industry alike, says the president of a major media watchdog.
A new study of 1,002 minors found that 14 percent of those ages 9-12 said they had shared their own nude picture online, compared to 6 percent who answered that way one year earlier. Meanwhile, 21 percent of children ages 9-12 said they believe it's normal for kids their age to share nude pics online – a significant uptick from the 13 percent who answered that way the previous year.
Among minors who have shared nude selfies, 50 percent said they had shared such a photo with someone they had never met in real life.
The study, released last month, was conducted by Thorn in partnership with Benenson Strategy Group, comparing data from October-November 2020 to a similar poll from 2019.
The Parents Television Council called it a "disturbing trend."
Tim Winter, president of the PTC, blamed the shocking data on two root causes: 1) a pandemic-driven increase in screen time and 2) entertainment programming promoting sexual experimenting and nude selfies. The PTC referenced programming on Netflix, Hulu and HBO.
Such television programming, he said, "encourages them to take nude photos and upload them, encourages them to be sexually active and sexually explicit."
"It normalizes that kind of behavior," he told Christian Headlines. "... We're talking about shows like Big Mouth, A Teacher and PEN15."
All three series are available on streaming platforms: Big Mouth on Netflix, A Teacher on FX on Hulu and PEN15 on Hulu. Big Mouth, for example, is an animated series "about 11- and 12- and 13-year-old children. And they are sexually provocative," Winter said. The series has full nudity. Because the show is animated, Winter said, "children are naturally attracted" to it.
"It encourages children to do it. And it whets the appetite of those who prey on children. And sadly, that's exactly what we're seeing now in the data," Winter said.
Parents, Winter asserted, need to be aware of what their children are watching. The PTC, he said, is issuing a "clarion call to parents."
"The first and last line of defense is parents," Winter continued. "They have to understand what's out there. I think most parents just don't understand how graphic a program like Big Mouth is. … This is the type of content – extreme content – that the PTC has never seen before and its 26-year history."
Photo courtesy: ©Martin Engel Grafiker Hamburg/Unsplash
Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.