Technopanic In The UK! Think Of The Children! They're Talking About SEX Online!

from the fear!-run!-do-something! dept

Just a week after we were talking about a new research report on media-induced "technopanics" we've got another one. This time, it's coming from the UK. The headline announces: One in ten children have sexually explicit conversations on the internet, study finds. Oh no! And then, each paragraph adds another scare factor: these kids also lie to their parents! Oh no! Sometimes they chat with strangers! Oh no! Some of them go to websites with adult content! Oh no! Some even pretend to do homework while actually (gasp!) chatting with others! It's just awful!

Of course, if you actually look at the details, they don't sound bad at all. In fact, I'm pretty surprised the numbers are as low as they are. The study itself involved a survey of kids from ages 11 to 18 in the UK. That's a huge range. Kids in the 16, 17 and 18 year old range are quite different from your everyday 11 and 12 year old. And the idea that a 17 or 18 year-old might have had a sexually explicit conversation online doesn't seem too surprising. Note that it never says anything about with whom the sexually explicit conversation occurred. Assuming that many of these 17 and 18 year olds have boyfriends or girlfriends, and they probably all use instant messaging, social networking or text messaging -- you have to imagine that many of them will have had somewhat sexually explicit conversations with that boyfriend or girlfriend. That's really not that out of the ordinary. The fact that it's only 11% of kids surveyed sounds incredibly low.

As for lying to parents about what they're doing online, is that a surprise? The fact that a kid would tell his mom he's doing homework while he's really chatting with his girlfriend or his friends? That's to be expected. Note that the study doesn't appear to have said just that people lied about having sexually explicit chats, either. Just that they lied about what they were doing online. As for chatting with strangers... while the article mentions that in passing, it doesn't indicate that the survey actually asked any questions about that at all. And, finally, visiting websites with adult content, I will again point out that we're talking about boys who are going through puberty. The fact that some of them eventually visit an adult website should hardly be news.

But when the press packages it all together in this nice format, it makes it seem like we've got a bunch of deviant kids running around the internet with no supervision from their luddite parents, who need to start standing over the shoulders of their kids as they surf. Either that, or perhaps we can calm down, realize that the stats don't say anything all that surprising, and move on to something that might actually matter.

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1. identicon
    Jake, Jul 17th, 2008 @ 3:21pm

    Not Exactly News

    I don't know why you still bother pointing this piffle out, at least when it crops up in Britain; most of us achieved 'used to it' years ago. At least the study sounds like it was vaguely scientific for once, though I'd be surprised if they got one honest answer in ten.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 17th, 2008 @ 3:25pm

    And yet the government will us news like this to create new laws to Protect us

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. identicon
    Glenn Cannon, Jul 17th, 2008 @ 3:50pm

    Age of Consent

    It may also be worth noting that the age of consent in the UK is 16. As such, anyone 16, 17 or 18 in the survey are almost definitely discussing sex, sexually active, etc.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 17th, 2008 @ 4:35pm

    No way, young people are sexually active? Next headline will be something like "Exposure to Sun May Cause Darker Skin"

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. identicon
    Blue, Jul 17th, 2008 @ 4:56pm

    That is startling!

    Only one in ten? Holy shit! That's surprisingly low!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. identicon
    Brian, Jul 17th, 2008 @ 5:05pm

    Re: That is startling!

    Only one in ten? Holy shit! That's surprisingly low!

    That's what I was going to say. I guarentee you at least 89% of Internet using kids in the UK lied to researchers about their activities online.

    Just sayin'. It's still not a bad thing. I have to say, if it weren't for the Internet, I would have had a lot less interesting things to try with my girlfriends in high school. What was I going to do? Really. My father never talked to me about that stuff. (He does now, much to my dismay.)

    And not that I'm a teen anymore, but OMG! I'm conversing with scawwy strangers right now! I need an adult! I need an adult!

    Seriously. People need to get over this crap. I'm pretty tired of hearing about it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 17th, 2008 @ 5:58pm

    The report also claims that 28% of children aged between 11-18 have accessed adult sites.

    I have news for the researchers: You've been lied to by a significantly large chunk of your participants.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 17th, 2008 @ 7:09pm

    Heres some real figures


    Thats the percentage of men aged 11-18 that will talk to strangers, sometimes about sex, while on an adult website no less, who own a computer with internet access. It's called puberty, and it happens everyday. Same goes for the ladies, but they mature faster so it's probably happening at a younger age for them.

    Humans start to mature at a very young age. It's how our bodies are designed and only over the last couple hundred years has become "taboo" for some reason. Back in the 1600's it was not uncommon for teenagers to be getting married and starting families of their own. It's only because our life-spans have incresaed dramatically that it seems out of place for us to have sex at a young age.

    Like anything else, it's about education; you either understand the repsonsibility of your actions or you do not. If a young adult can understand the gravity of the situation jsut as well as an older adult can, then there's no reason they shouldn't be allowed to partake in the same actions. If you're 25 and understand sex can lead to STD's and parenthood, and a kid 14 understands that just as well, I dont see any reason what makes one more qualified on the basis of age alone. The mind matures or it doesn't, and age only affects that up to a certain point of cognative ability. After that, it's up to knowledge and wisdom to do the rest.

    Point being, if I knew a kid 7 years old understood what exactly sex entailed just as well as I myself understand it, I would have no objection to them taking part in that activity. As I imagine anyone else would, but none of us belive a human at that young of an age can understand its implications, therefore we try to prohibit them from engaging in doing so. This goes for driking, smoking, driving, and everything else in life, it all boils down to maturity, and we know humans are quite capable of adulthood at even the age of 14, if properly prepared.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. identicon
    Tamara, Jul 17th, 2008 @ 9:52pm

    Luddite parents. That's awesome. Everyone says "Think of the Children!" But no one says "Hold Mom and Dad's feet to the fire for Accountability"

    The Government is not your personal babysitter.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10. icon
    PaulT (profile), Jul 18th, 2008 @ 2:10am

    Look at the source...

    Non issue. The Telegraph isn't quite at the "everyone panic about everything!" level of fearmongering - every single day - the Daily Mail or The Sun, but they're not that far behind.

    Wake me up when a reliable source prints this.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11. identicon
    Mr Big Content, Jul 18th, 2008 @ 3:08am


    Get these filthy disgusting little perverts and try them as adults, that's what I say. MAKE THEM REGISTERED SEX OFFENDERS FOR LIFE!!!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12. identicon
    SteveD, Jul 18th, 2008 @ 3:35am

    Teen dating website home to paedophiles?

    You'd think the BBC would know better. A childrens charity complains that a site makes it possible for adults to contact teenagers. zomg!

    A userbase of 17'000 and only 150 over-40's, less then 1% of the people who use the site, and somehow its portrayed as a haven for paedophiles.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13. icon
    Lisa Westveld (profile), Jul 18th, 2008 @ 3:42am

    You dumb macho-testosterone brickhead!

    You said: "And, finally, visiting websites with adult content, I will again point out that we're talking about boys who are going through puberty."

    Are you ASSuming that only boys look at porn online? Boy, you have a lot to learn about us women. :-)

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14. identicon
    wasnt me, Jul 18th, 2008 @ 5:08am

    11% only? and they include 15y.o and older?
    wait till they find out that quite a few of them already had sex.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 18th, 2008 @ 7:18am

    10%???? And they are actually spinning that number as something to be alarmed about? What do they want it to be? 1%? 0.05%?

    Where are the quotes from the politicians about "winning the war against pornography!"? 10% use of anything considered "sinful" should be applauded.

    Heck marijuana use in that age range hovers somewhere around 20% (in America). Oral sex between teens (15-19) is around 50%.

    If I was a bible thumpin' jesus freak, I would be doing some serious holy chest thumps over a number as low as 10%

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16. identicon
    John Wilson, Jul 18th, 2008 @ 9:07am

    Oh for goodness sake, this is England!

    I think it was Shaw or perhaps someone else who said "there's nothing funnier than the English in one of their periodic fits of morality."

    That about sums it up.



    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17. icon
    entropy (profile), Jul 18th, 2008 @ 8:34pm


    Next thing you know, they'll be having sexually explicit conversations with their friends while at school, or when they're hanging out. Yikes! Someone needs to be held accountable! No one ever did these things before the advent of the internet!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

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