MTV and The Associated Press today revealed the results of a new study exploring the pervasiveness of digital abuse, how it is affecting America's youth and how they're responding to it. According to the study, 76 percent of 14-24 year olds say that digital abuse is a serious problem for people their age. More than half (56 percent) of those surveyed say they have experienced abuse through social and digital media, up from 50 percent reported in the 2009 MTV-AP digital abuse survey. However, compared to 2009, young people in the 2011 study were significantly more likely to intervene, with a majority now saying they would step in if they saw someone "being mean online."
Looking at sexting and digital dating abuse, one in three have sent or received "sext" messages on their cell phones or online, and 71 percent think that sexting is a serious problem. However, only 15 percent of 14-24 year olds say that they have at some point shared naked photos or videos of themselves. Among those who have sexted, 10 percent have done so with someone they only know online, down significantly from 29 percent in 2009. Among those who have sent a nude photo, roughly half have been pressured to do so. Additionally, 41 percent of those in a relationship have experienced some form of digital dating abuse, with nearly three in 10 saying their partner has checked up on them multiple times a day online or via mobile; 27 percent say a partner has read their text messages without permission.
One in two young people say they often or sometimes see discriminatory language being used against others on social networking sites, with "slut," "that's so gay," "fag" and "retard" ranking among the most commonly used discriminatory words or phrases. The groups most frequently discriminated against online include the overweight and LGBT. Young people surveyed fall into two categories, split roughly down the middle: 51 percent who believe using discriminatory language online is never OK, and 46 percent who believe it's OK to use it sometimes, so long as you make clear you're "just kidding." Fifty-four percent also said it's OK for them and their friends to use discriminatory language because "I know we don't mean it."
The MTV and Associated Press study was released today as part of MTV's "A THIN LINE" campaign, which has already empowered more than 1 million young people to take action to stop the spread of digital abuse. The insight from this research touches on the storylines in MTV's latest original movie, (DIS)CONNECTED, which explores the collision of life, love and digital drama. (DIS)CONNECTED will premiere on MTV on Monday, October 10 at 9 p.m. ET/PT.
Detailed findings from the August 2011 study include:
I. PERVASIVENESS OF DIGITAL ABUSE
A majority of today's youth have experienced digital abuse, and one in four say it's happened in the past six months.
In terms of combating digital abuse, asking the person who did it to stop was effective for 47 percent who tried it, although 14 percent said it made things worse and 27 percent said it had no effect. In terms of effectiveness, there are a few techniques that stand out as being particularly helpful, each of which had to do with limiting access:
II. SEXTING AND DIGITAL DATING ABUSE
Overall, one-third of young people say they have sent or received a "sext" message, largely unchanged from 2009. Sending a "sext" is far more prevalent among young adults (19 percent) compared to teens (7 percent). Among those who have had at least one sexting occurrence, 45 percent say it happened within the last six months. Seven in 10 see sexting as a serious problem.
Forty-one percent of those aged 14-24 who are currently in a relationship have experienced some form of dating abuse:
III. DIGITAL DISCRIMINATION
The MTV-AP study reinforced that people can be emboldened to type things they'd never say, as 71 percent of respondents said people are more likely to use slurs online or in text messages than in person. Young people tend to focus more on user's intent: while 51 percent of respondents felt that using discriminatory language is never OK, 46 percent felt it was OK to use it if they make clear they're "just kidding."
The study shows that online discrimination is common and targeted at various groups:
The study also shows that Millennials are increasingly aware of the potential negative impact of what they post online. Trending data from 2009 shows marked improvement in several categories.
Some of the positive gains made from 2009 include: