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Photo illustration of social media apps on a phone. Photo: Matt Cardy / Contributor

In a trend that worries sexual abuse experts, teens and even younger children are sharing more nude pictures of themselves, often with adults, a new study has found.

Why it matters: Once shared with even one person, such images can easily be distributed further and become part of the corpus of child sexual abuse material in the dark corners of the web.

Driving the news: Twice as many children between the ages of 9 and 12 reported sending nudes or other suggestive pictures of themselves in 2020, compared to the prior year, according to new research from non-profit Thorn, which works to prevent child exploitation.

  • LGBTQ+ teens were nearly three times as likely to share nude pictures of themselves than their non-LGBTQ+ peers.
  • "Puberty and technology are on a collision course, and kids now face situations online that their parents never experienced, at a younger age than most people would think," Thorn CEO Julie Cordua said in a statement to Axios.

The big picture: Thorn's report, which focuses on images created by kids themselves, follows another study that found that the total amount of child sexual abuse material online has also increased.

Between the lines: The pandemic has made the situation even more challenging, Cordua said, adding that kids are now spending more time online, often with even less supervision.

  • "It has never been more urgent that we talk with our kids about online safety," Cordua said. "That can start with having an honest, judgment-free conversation as soon as children have access to a device."

Go deeper

Dec 17, 2021 - Technology

Toys are getting smarter

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Demand for tech-infused toys is growing — and raising alarm about kids' privacy and safety.

The big picture: The global smart toy market is projected to swell to nearly $70 billion by 2026, per Transparency Market Research.

Updated 2 hours ago - World

Pentagon: 8,500 troops on high alert for possible deployment to eastern Europe

Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has placed 8,500 U.S. troops on "heightened preparedness to deploy" to eastern Europe in case NATO activates its rapid-response force over tensions with Russia, the Pentagon announced Monday.

Why it matters: No decisions have been made to actually deploy U.S. forces, but the heightened alert level will allow the military to rapidly shore up NATO's eastern flank in the event that Russia invades Ukraine. The Pentagon warned that Russia has shown "no signs of de-escalating," and continues to amass troops on Ukraine's borders.

Updated 3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Biden calls Fox News reporter a "stupid son of a b---h" on hot mic

President Biden blasted Fox News' Peter Doocy on Monday after the reporter asked if the nation's soaring inflation is a political liability, saying, "what a stupid son of a b----h."

The latest: The president called Doocy Monday evening, the reporter told Fox's Sean Hannity. "He cleared the air and I appreciated it. We had a nice call," Doocy said when asked whether the president apologized, adding: "I don't need anyone to apologize to me."