Teenagers consume porn. It is a fact proven by data and studies, something that has been happening all our lives and that does not surprise anyone. Although this, like many other aspects of society, has evolved with the arrival of the internet and social networks. The magazines or tapes that 20 years ago someone secretly showed to friends have become photos and videos that young people pass through WhatsApp chats, or links to some pornographic platform with millions of daily visits around the world. And technology has not only changed the medium of consumption, but also the type of content. The case of the false nudes of Almendralejo (Badajoz) is the example of how artificial intelligence (AI) has generalized the creation and dissemination of non-consensual pornographic images, which no longer have as victims only famous people, but people from their own environment, such as high school classmates. A practice that sets off many alarms for the ease of access to these applications, capable of undressing with a click anyone who has posted a photo on the internet.
"The digital world is no different from the analog world. Now, as before, young people continue to access porn through friends who teach you something. The only thing that has changed are the access routes, which have become digital, "summarizes Melchor Gómez, professor of Educational Technology at the Autonomous University of Madrid (UAM). In addition to the best-known platforms that are part of everyone's daily life regardless of age – WhatsApp, Instagram or Facebook – there are others that are almost exclusively the domain of young people, which is precisely where Gómez invites you to focus attention. "They are channels where there are generally no adults and where young people have created their own jargon. It is as if it were the playground or the point where they meet when they go out at night. But now it's the Play chat," he explains.
"We can all be victims and the damage is irreparable": how deepfakes have flooded the planet
In fact, 51% of teens access pornographic content for the first time through groups of friends, according to a report by Save the Children. It may be that it shows it to you on your device (it happens in 30% of cases); to talk about it and look for it on their own (15%), or to receive it through messaging groups or social networks (6.4%). There is also involuntary exposure, which with the use of the internet and social networks occurs mainly through pages and platforms free of downloads of series and movies, with the famous pop-up ads.
Within this world, the most popular platform for Gen Z is Discord, Gomez says. Founded in 2015 by an American video game programmer looking for a way to launch his game development studio, the social network became truly famous during the pandemic, when millions of young people around the globe, confined to their homes, were looking for a place to chat with friends and join online communities. In three years, it has become the favorite platform among gamers, thanks to the possibility of screen sharing and being able to play online with users who do not have the same console.
Screenshot of a Telegram chat to use an artificial intelligence app.
It works through servers, similar to Telegram channels or Facebook groups, which can be public — some of which have millions of members — or private. They are usually dedicated to discussing specific games or starting conversations about music, television series or art. "Overall, it's not something of concern or out of control. They are chats like many others, it is the way that young people have today to communicate among equals, "says Gómez. Private servers, however, can be more problematic.
They have limited communities, sometimes made up of friends who meet in person and who use this platform to message each other while online. Because they are smaller and require an invitation to join, they often lack supervision by the platform. A few months ago, Discord was involved in a case of leaking hundreds of classified documents from the United States, which a 21-year-old shared on a private server dedicated to video games, memes and racist jokes. It is the same social network that a university professor used to talk to a 14-year-old girl from Albacete who was kidnapped for a week.
It is not, however, the only access route used by the youngest. A search on TikTok for keywords linked to the case of Almendralejo leads to videos about applications and web pages that serve to modify photographs. Some warn of the dangers of implementing certain practices, while others explain how to use them, such as a short video in which a boy smiled while showing a sign with the address of a website in which to produce nudity. "I've used it with my classmate," wrote one user in comments about an app sold on the web as "the most powerful AI in deepfake" with which "you can see any girl naked with a single click." That video was removed from the platform after EL PAÍS asked what the moderation policy is with content like that. Sources of the Chinese social network assure that the activity of a sexual nature is prohibited. A first filter is applied by automatic tools, to which is then added human monitoring and complaints from the users themselves.
Although it is not as popular among young people as Discord or TikTok, Telegram also has its dark channels. Some of these AI applications have groups with hundreds of thousands of registrants that allow access to the web directly from the messaging platform. Supervision is practically non-existent, since to access you have to confirm being over 18 years old by clicking on a button, without other types of control or much difficulty. "This is the worst. These things are not complex at all. For a modern kid, using it is as easy as riding a bike. What happens is that parents live in parallel worlds and do not make the effort to be interested in what their children do when they are connected," laments Talía Rodríguez Martelo, a professor at the University of Vigo who is an expert in digital education issues.
Rodríguez warns that tools such as parental control are useless with teenagers, although he recognizes that it is a necessary mechanism to limit the use made by the youngest of web content. "For every parental control, at certain ages they know twenty tricks more than you. There is the generation gap, in which a 15-year-old knows much more than his parents, for the simple fact of being born surrounded by technology, "he explains.
In these cases, Rodríguez recognizes that the ban leads nowhere, and that the most effective way to monitor one's own children is to share with them the time they spend with the screens. "Dialogue is fundamental, but it cannot be directed only at serious issues. You also have to accompany them in the things that interest only them and know what they are talking about when they name this or another streamer. Know what content they share."
You can follow EL PAÍS Tecnología on Facebook and Twitter or sign up here to receive our weekly newsletter.
Subscribe to continue reading
Read without limits
I'm already a subscriber