Close menu


Sunderland Repository records the research produced by the University of Sunderland including practice-based research and theses.

Young People and Digital Intimacies. What is the evidence and what does it mean? Where next?

Smith, Clarissa, Attwood, Feona and Scott, Rachel (2019) Young People and Digital Intimacies. What is the evidence and what does it mean? Where next? University of Sunderland.

Item Type: Other


The digital age makes new forms of connection possible, enabling ‘digital intimacies’ including the many practices of communicating, producing and sharing intimate content (‘sexting’; selfies; making, viewing and circulating sexual content; using hook-up apps; and searching online for advice about sex). Where young people engage in digital intimacies, policymakers have tended to respond with alarm and commissioned research premised on demonstrating negative outcomes. Young people’s take up of technologies is contrasted with previous generations and ideas of ‘healthy’, ‘natural’ and ‘normal’ sexual development which ignores and marginalises diversity of sexuality and sexual expression, and leads to campaigns that seek to supervise and regulate youth sexuality. This in turn results in legislation and censorship with consequences including blocking websites for sexual abuse support and sexual education.
The government has suspended introduction of Age Verification for pornographic websites but is pressing ahead with its ‘Online Harms’ White Paper which plans for broader and more comprehensive regulatory frameworks in the interests of protecting children and young people in online spaces. The UK government has positioned itself as a world leader in developing new regulatory approaches to tackle online harms but the evidence base for those approaches is neither robust nor nuanced enough to respond to the increasing mediatisation of everyday life and sexual identity.
This briefing advocates for a broader recognition of young people’s investments in digital intimacies, acknowledging what growing up and learning about sex in the digital age means for young people in order to inform future policy and practice. Policies that are informed by robust research and understandings that accommodate the nuanced practices of digital intimacy will provide the support that young people need and deserve as they navigate their media lives, develop awareness of ethical and unethical behaviour, and what is right for them.

PDF (Policy Brief)
Young People and Digital Intimacies June 2019 Final.pdf - Published Version

Download (1MB) | Preview

More Information

Depositing User: Clarissa Smith


Item ID: 11405

Users with ORCIDS

ORCID for Clarissa Smith: ORCID iD

Catalogue record

Date Deposited: 06 Jan 2020 10:54
Last Modified: 30 Sep 2020 11:04


Author: Clarissa Smith ORCID iD
Author: Feona Attwood
Author: Rachel Scott

University Divisions

Faculty of Arts and Creative Industries > School of Media and Communications


Social Sciences > Working with Young People
Social Sciences

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item