In a new study, Thorn, a tech nonprofit dedicated to defending children from online sexual exploitation, found twice as many pre-teens between the ages of 9 and 12 admitted to sending nudes or other Self-Generated Child Sexual Abuse Material (SG-CSAM) in 2020 than in 2019. 

The research, titled "Self-Generated Child Sexual Abuse Material: Youth Attitudes and Experiences in 2020," observed changes in minors' behaviors and attitudes related to SG-CSAM.

The nonprofit saw 17% of children ages (ages 9-17) have shared nudes —a 6% increase from 2019. This increase was more pronounced among pre-teens (9-12-year-olds) and boys.

These findings highlighted a growing perception of normalcy around sharing nudes among pre-teen boys in particular. Data proved 1 in 4 boys (ages 9-12) assumed it was "normal" to share nudes— a 10% increase from the prior year.

The use of secondary accounts (such as "finstas") made to keep content private was up among pre-teens, who also reportedly showed a drop in regularly following online safety rules.


"The pandemic has had a profound effect on the lives of children, who are now spending even more time online, and often with less supervision," said Julie Cordua, CEO of Thorn.

"Our tracking of kids' changing attitudes and behaviors towards sharing sexually explicit material shows how greater access to technology comes with greater risks, and why parents and caregivers need to be prepared to equip young people with the tools and knowledge to be safe and healthy on the Internet," she explained. "It has never been more urgent that we talk with our kids about online safety."

In 2019, 37% of children in Thorn's survey had said they shared nudes with someone they only knew online. Results show a significant increase in trend year-over-year is evident. 

Data further explained that among respondents who reported sharing nudes, 50% said they were sending nudes to someone they had never met in real life, while 41% believed they were sending the images to an adult. 

This testimony highlights the growing threat of child grooming and exploitation perpetrated by sexual predators online.

As a result, Thorn launched a digital resource hub Thorn for Parents, designed to assist parents and caregivers in having earlier, more frequent, and judgment-free conversations with children about digital safety. 

To learn more about its mission to develop technology to defend children from sexual abuse and eliminate child sex abuse material from the internet at Thorn.org.