In January of 2023, Common Sense Media released a report regarding teenagers’ use of pornography. Whether intentionally or by accident, approximately three out of four teenagers reported that they’d encountered pornography. As many as fifteen percent of respondents under the age of teen reported seeing pornography online. In fact, Common Sense Media found that, on average, respondents first saw pornography at twelve years of age. Many teenagers even begin to create and exchange pornographic images and “sexts” themselves. According to an article in the Journal of Adolescent Health, 19.3% of teens have sent sexts. However, 34.8% of teens reported that they’d received sexts. As teens spend most of their time at school, it’s inevitable that these activities will occur on school grounds. Therefore, educators and administrators must be prepared to deal with teen pornography use and sexting at school.
What Schools Need to Know about Teen Pornography Use
Megan K. Maas, who studies human development, outlines what schools need to know about teen pornography use and sexting in an article on The Conversation’s website. Maas explains how pornography, which often serves as a source for sex education for teens, can instill damaging ideas about sexuality. Most concerning is the prevalence of violent pornography online. Maas states that “fifty-two percent of teens have seen violent pornography.” Viewing violent pornography can lead to violent behavior. According to Maas, “male adolescents exposed to violent pornography are more likely to be higher in sexual aggression.” For female adolescents, Maas writes that “violent pornography exposure is associated with nonviolent risk behaviors, such as substance use, buying or selling sex, and sexual victimization.”
What Schools Need to Know about Teen Sexting
Maas explains that teens often view sexting differently than adults. For instance, many teens think of “consensual sexting” as “a normal and healthy part of adolescent sexuality.” However, in many states, sexting by teenagers is legally considered to be “the distribution of child sexual abuse material.” Also, sexting is not always consensual. In fact, according to the Journal of Adolescent Health article, 14.5% of teens reported that they had forwarded sexts from others without consent. Maas writes that “coercive” sexting and the sharing of sexts without consent “can be considered by law enforcement and violence researchers a form of sexual harassment or image-based sexual abuse.”
Schools Must Be Prepared to Deal with Teen Pornography Use and Sexting
Administrators need to know that schools can be liable for students encountering pornography or sexting on campus. According to Maas, Title IX “can potentially be used to address nonconsensual pornography in high schools.” Title IX requires administrators to “take prompt and effective steps” to stop nonconsensual pornography or sexting if they “know or reasonably should know” about it. Administrators must also “prevent its recurrence and address its effects.” If students can use school computers to access the internet, then it is possible that they will access pornography. Screen monitoring software, like LearnSafe, can help schools follow Title IX and prevent students from accessing pornography. LearnSafe works hand-in-hand with content filters to prevent access to explicit images and videos. LearnSafe also detects student access to pornography and sexting, allowing administrators to promptly stop nonconsensual and coercive behavior online.