The results of a survey released today shed light on the digital technology habits of young people in the UK.
The survey – Digital Romance – was conducted by UK-based sexual health and wellbeing charity Brook and NCA-CEOP. It involved focus groups; interviews and an online survey of 2,000 young people aged 14-25. The majority were aged 14-17.
Researchers specifically wanted to explore how digital technology is used by young people in their search for love, romance and sex.
Key findings from Digital Romance include:
- Significantly more gay (58%) and bisexual (52%) young people have asked someone out online compared to those who were heterosexual (38%).
- Twice as many gay young people (9.9%) had met up with an online contact who was not who they said they were, compared to straight young people (4.9%).
- Significantly more non-binary gender young people (55%) had met someone online who they started seeing compared to cis-gender girls (37%) and boys (38%).
- Following the end of a relationship, 5% of young people reported that their ex sent a nude or sexual image of themselves onto other people. Twenty-eight per cent said that their ex or their ex’s friends had sent them nasty messages online.
- A third of respondents had sent a nude or sexual image to someone they were interested in.
- Girls were significantly more likely (36%) to have come under pressure to send nude photos of themselves than boys (11%) and to have experienced threats or verbal abuse from partners during a relationship (14% compared to 8% from boys).
- 9% said they had sent a nude or sexual image of someone else on to others.
Regular concerns expressed by young people included online abuse, sexism, and negative comments about appearance.
‘LGBT people face more risks’
In the report, the author’s note: ‘Our findings suggest that young LGBT people face more risks when connecting with others online; these are plausibly related to experiences of stigma, isolation and discrimination that some also described.’
They continue: ‘The relationship between risk-taking and harm is complex and differs across young people and online contexts. The key point in our findings is that when ostracism and prejudice exist offline, this can cause those subjected to it to face more risk online.’
One of Digital Romance’s co-authors, Dr Ester McGeeney, said in a statement: ‘The research shows how central technology is to young people’s relationships today.
‘It’s part of how young people communicate, build intimacy, hang out, argue, make up, break up and deal with the post break up fall out. For most young people though, technology hasn’t replaced face to face communication. Rather, it has diversified the ways that young people have relationships and communicate with others.
‘These statistics highlight the need for improved relationship/sex education’
The vast majority of participants said they were happy with online safety education they had received, but only 72% said they had received any relationship skills education. Just 26% rated this education as good or very good.
‘These statistics highlight the need for improved RSE education in our schools,’ said Elly Barnes of Educate and Celebrate to GSN.
‘The teaching of RSE is now compulsory, therefore schools should be ensuring that staff are regularly trained with attention to gender equality, LGBT+ and discrimination in all its forms embedded into the curriculum across all key stages.’
Dating app safe useage
A spokesperson for LGBT rights charity Stonewall told GSN, ‘Many lesbian, gay, bi and trans young people often turn to the internet when exploring their identity, seeking acceptance and information they can struggle to find elsewhere.
‘This is why it is so important that there is inclusive, compulsory, age-appropriate SRE (Sex and Relationships Education) as part of PSHE. Inclusive sex and relationships education doesn’t just benefit LGBT young people, but helps all young people to develop an understanding of difference and diversity as they progress into adult life.
‘We would also like to see all online dating sites and apps to clearly signpost safe usage to all users.’