Over 30 percent of Finnish respondents aged between 12 and 17 have, during the past year, witnessed some kind of sexual harassment directed against fellow teens via digital media, national broadcaster Yle reported, citing a fresh poll by Save the Children Finland.
Responses from over 3,200 secondary school pupils witnessed that girls are more often exposed to suggestive material, such as snapshots of other people's private parts, and unsolicited attention than boys. Over 10 percent of the girls surveyed claimed to have personally fallen prey to sexual harassers, while only 5 percent of the boys could say the same.
However, the survey also highlighted a marked discrepancy between what the Finnish teenagers say and what they actually do. While 90 percent of them condemned sharing images of scantily-dressed or naked people, one-third of them reported having seen this kind of material being spread around.
At the same time, close to one-third of boys and one-fifth of girls claimed it was fully acceptable to share naked selfies and videos with their respective partners. Among upper secondary school students, this percentage rose to 50 percent of girls and 60 percent of boys.
Furthermore, 12 percent of schoolgirls and 8 percent of boys admitted to having shared sexual images or videos with strangers. Among upper secondary school students, this number jumped to 16 percent for girls and 11 percent for boys.
Lastly, Save the Children identified shame as the biggest deterring factor that keeps adolescents from revealing their painful experiences of cyberbullying and sexual harassment. This proved to be the case for over half of the girls and 20 percent of the boys.
While claiming that sexting and sharing intimate photos was a "natural part" of young people's romantic relationships these days, Save the Children nevertheless stressed the risk of such material being used to the youngsters' detriment. It also urged Finnish schools to launch a discussion about the hazardous consequences of sharing sexual images and called on Finnish legislators to update laws concerning all forms of sexual abuse affecting children.