Half of 14- to 24-Year Olds Have Experienced Digitally Abusive Behavior, Survey Finds

Half of 14- to 24-Year Olds Have Experienced Digitally Abusive Behavior, Survey Finds

MTV has unveiled a new multi-year initiative that will use shows, contests and online tools to try to stop the spread of sexting and cyberbullying. To coincide with the initiative’s launch, MTV and the Associated Press released a new online survey which finds that 50 percent of 14- to 24-year-olds have been the target of some form of digital abuse, and nearly one in three (30 percent) have sent or received nude photos of other young people on their cell phones or online.

MTV’s “A THIN LINE” campaign will address digital abuse issues through a series of on-air, online and real world initiatives including integration in MTV’s top-rated programming, an MTV News special focused on sexting, a special episode of the documentary series “True Life: I Have Digital Drama,” public service announcements, innovative online and mobile tools, and a “Redraw the Line Challenge” which calls on young people to submit innovative digital antidotes to digital abuse. Young people can access information, resources and support on issues related to digital abuse at www.athinline.org.

New Survey

Research from MTV and the Associated Press finds that 30 percent of young people have sent or received nude pictures of other young people on their cell phones or online. Three in five people in that group (61 percent of them) report being pressured to do so at least once.

Twenty-nine percent of respondents who have shared naked images of themselves with someone other than a significant other did so with someone they knew only online and had never met in person, and 24 percent shared the images with someone they were interested in dating or hooking up with. Seventeen percent of sext recipients report that they have passed the images along to someone else, and more than half of them (55 percent) say they shared them with more than one person.

Nearly a quarter of young people who say they are in some sort of a romantic relationship report that their boyfriend or girlfriend checks up on them multiple times a day, either online or on a cell phone to see where they are, who they’re with, or what they’re doing. Twenty-two percent of those young people say they feel like their significant other checks up on them too often, and 15 percent say that their significant other complains that they check up too often. More than one in four says their boyfriend or girlfriend has checked the text messages on their phone without permission.

When it comes to online behavior, about half of young people (51 percent) think their actions could come back to haunt them, and one in four believe that their digital actions could have legal consequences.

The survey found that some of the more extreme forms of digital abuse, such as impersonation, blackmail or pressure to sext, occur less frequently but still affect a number of young people. To read more, click here.

Developing the Campaign

“Our audience lives online, and while every generation deals with their own set of abuse issues, the digital sphere exponentially increases opportunities for misuse,” said Stephen Friedman, General Manager of MTV. “There is a very thin line between private and public, this moment and forever, love and abuse, and words and wounds. ‘A THIN LINE’ is built to empower our audience to draw their own line between digital use and digital abuse.”

The Family Violence Prevention Fund (FVPF) was one of MTV’s partners in developing the campaign. “We are very proud to collaborate with MTV on this important work to help stop digital abuse,” said FVPF President Esta Soler. “By raising awareness of digital abuse in an innovative and relevant way, ‘A THIN LINE’ will shine a spotlight on a problem that is affecting our young people in countless schools and communities across the country.”

Leading experts in cyber-crime, teen dating violence, adolescent psychology, and other teen issues formed an advisory board to help shape the campaign. In addition to Soler, the board includes Parry Aftab, Executive Director of Wired Safety and StopCyberbullying.org; Casi Lumbra, a teen online security expert who has addressed audiences at the United Nations and Harvard Law School; Dr. Jill Murray, psychologist and internationally-recognized expert on teen dating abuse; Jane Randel, Vice President of Corporate Communications, Liz Claiborne Inc.; Cindy Southworth, Founder and Director of the Safety Net Project at the National Network to End Domestic Violence; and Virginia Witt, Director of Public Affairs and Policy at Blue Shield of California Foundation. Other partners that helped develop the campaign include: Facebook, MySpace, Anti-Defamation League, loveisrespect.org, The National Teen Dating Abuse Helpline, DoSomething.org, Break the Cycle, Ruder Finn, Teenangels and PBS’ FRONTLINE.

Over the next few years, MTV plans to address digital abuse with a 30-minute MTV News Special Report on sexting. The special will examine how this trend is affecting youth culture and relationships, the legal and emotional stakes involved and how sexting is becoming a new frontier for teen dating abuse. It is set to premiere around Valentine’s Day 2010. Another special, “True Life: I Have Digital Drama,” from MTV’s Emmy-Award winning documentary series will take a close look at how digital platforms are creating trust, privacy and harassment issues for two young couples.

MTV is also issuing the “Redraw the Line Challenge” to young people. With support from Blue Shield of California Foundation, MTV is asking America’s youth to imagine digital antidotes – such as new mobile or web-based services, social games or viral content – that help stop the spread of digital abuse. The winning individual or team will be rewarded with $10,000, plus a chance to work with MTV – and a development budget of up to $75,000 – to see their idea actualized. For more details, click here.

MTV kicked off “A THIN LINE” on December 3 in tandem with Liz Claiborne Inc.’s It’s Time To Talk Day, an annual day dedicated to ensuring that Americans speak-up and raise national attention around domestic violence including teen dating violence and intimate partner abuse.

Knowledge Networks conducted the survey for MTV and the Associated Press, interviewing 600 teens and 647 adults from September 11-22, 2009. The sampling margin of error for a 50 percent statistic with 95 percent confidence is +/- 2.8 percent for all interviews. Read the complete study here.

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