A new report highlights the different views that teenage girls and boys have on sharing nude photos on social media, with girls finding it normal but unpleasant, and boys more likely to spread photos for revenge.
The revelations are part of Insights into digital harm: The online lives of New Zealand girls and boys - the first report in New Zealand of young people's experience with digital harm in their own words.
The report, published by the Ministry for Women and Netsafe and released this afternoon, centres on interviews with 12 focus groups across Auckland, Wellington, and Christchurch, involving 95 teenagers aged 16 and 17.
Participants said that online interactions often did not get out of hand, but almost everyone knew someone who had suffered serious digital harm - and nude and embarrassing photos were the most hurtful experiences.
"For girls, receiving nude pictures of males is considered normal (although unpleasant) and part of their online experience," the report said, adding that girls were more likely to receive unwanted nude photos.
"If someone that you don't know sends you a picture of their penis, you're like: 'okay that was gross, but okay. I'm done now, bye'," a girl told the study.
The report said there was a clear understanding that consent around nude photos was very important, and "when photos are shared without the consent of the subject this is perceived as very harmful."
"Boys reported that sharing images of a girl is 'wrong', and they were more likely to engage in sharing photos when they were younger, and for sharing photos to serve a motive (e.g. revenge)."
Other gendered differences included:
• Conflict was more likely to escalate online for girls, and offline for boys.
• Girls were more likely to discuss sexual harassment online than boys.
• Girls reported being more 'invested' and therefore more at risk of harm.
• Boys were more likely to engage in online "roasting".
"If you say something really mean, you can hide behind the screen so you don't have to see that person really upset or crying. You can just hide. So, you don't feel bad," said one girl in a focus group.
Participants reported bullying, being pressured to send nude pictures, having nude photos spread beyond intended recipients, and being the subject of online stalking.
One girl recounted a story of bullying: "They used to call her [word suppressed] because she sent a nude of her boobs or something like that. Apparently she had [word suppressed] nipples or something. They used to pick on her and everyone, like she'd be on the bus and people would call out '[word suppressed]' and post on her Facebook."
Many participants felt competent with social media, but not always in control of their online content.
"I've been exposed to so many different things on Facebook, there's so, so many sex videos on there now, and honestly, Facebook is so slow at reacting to them," one girl told the study.
A boy said a video on his Facebook feed popped up showing "this dude whose hands got hacked off, and I just thought: how the hell did that get on my feed?"
Minister for Women Julie Anne Genter, who launched the study at Wellington Girls' College today, said there needed to be tailored harm prevention because girls and boys had different online experiences.
"My message to young people is, 'You deserve to be safe, and you deserve support to get safe'.
"We have to understand more about how to prevent harm online, about how to keep safe, and what to do when it is not safe."
She said parents had a role to play to educate their children in the safe use of social media, and to encourage healthy relationships.
How to get help: https://www.netsafe.org.nz/hdc/