'Sexts' showing up on porn sites, study warns teens

Published: Thursday, Oct. 25 2012 11:09 a.m. MDT

A study says that children and teens post thousands of explicit images of themselves online. And when they do, porn sites are hijacking the images and posting them, causing even greater damage.

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Teens who send suggestive photos of themselves or post them online will likely lose all control of the images, which 88 percent of the time are hijacked by porn websites.

That's the finding of a study by Internet Watch Foundation, a Web safety organization that says children and teens who post sexually explicit images and videos online are putting themselves at greater risk than they realize. And apparently thousands of children and teens are posting and sending such images, often on social network sites or sending them to peers.

The group analyzed and logged 12,224 images during 47 hours over the course of a four-week period, finding that most were mined by what are called "parasite websites" that focus on sexually explicit videos and images of young people. The child or teen would place the image online and the parasite website would steal a copy for its own URL.

"This research gives an usettling indication of the number of images and videos on the Internet featuring young people performing sexually explicit acts or posing," Susie Hargreaves, CEO of the Internet watch group, told The Guardian. "It also highlights the problem of control of these images — once an image has been copied onto a parasite website, it will no longer suffice to simply remove the image from the online account.

"We need young people to realize that once an image or a video has gone online, they may never be able to remove it entirely," she said.

While the foundation calls itself the "UK hotline for reporting criminal online content," its findings could apply in any community in the global online world. And images posted by children and youths anywhere are vulnerable.

Forbes noted that there are already serious potential legal ramifications for the youngsters and youths who post such images, but that the wider distribution by parasite porn sites increases the chance the images will be found out, as well.

The parasite websites are well-known to those who worry about children sexting and otherwise sharing sexual images of themselves and the ramifications that could create. Internet Watch Foundationi technical researcher Sarah Smith noted to the New York Daily News, however, that this is the first time researchers have been able to demonstrate and quantify how truly large the porn websites reach.

Youths who had posted explicit images of themselves told the researchers at IWF that they regretted it and recounted tales of being recognized and harrassed after the images were online.

“I endured so much bullying because of this photograph and the others … I was eventually admitted for severe depression and was treated for a suicide attempt,” one of them said.

EMAIL: lois@desnews.com, Twitter: Loisco

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