Lauren Anjema was in sixth grade the first time a boy asked her to send him a nude photo of herself. “It was a ‘If you love me you’ll send me this’ kind of thing,” said Ms. Anjema, now 18.
As social isolation and device usage soared during the pandemic, digital-media experts say the sharing of nude selfies and other sexually explicit messages among teens and tweens has only gotten worse.
Bark, an online safety service that parents and schools can pay to monitor kids’ devices, found the average daily volume of children’s text messages that included sexual content is up approximately 37% from pre-pandemic levels, from 0.51% of all activities in July 2019 to 0.7% in May 2021.
A 2018 meta-analysis on sexting—the act of sending nude photos, videos or sexual messages—published in JAMA Pediatrics found that 1 in 7 adolescents have sent sexts, 1 in 4 have received sexts and 1 in 8 have forwarded sexts without the consent of the person in the photo. Several teens I interviewed said sharing nudes has become a prerequisite for dating, with girls feeling pressured to send photos.