A survey has examined the extent of so-called 'sexting' among secondary school students in Ireland.

The study of more than 3,000 students in 30 schools was carried out by Zeeko, a start-up based in NovaUCD that tries to educate parents, teachers and children about online safety.

Sexting is the shorthand for the sharing of sexually explicit of suggestive images, videos and texts.

The research found that Irish teenagers are more likely to do it the older they get.

The survey found 13% of secondary students admitting they had sent nude or semi-nude photos or videos of themselves.

The rate of sexting rises as the teenagers get older. For instance, 4% of first year students said they had sent a 'sext' image, while 34% of sixth years said they had done it.

Boys are twice as likely as girls to sext - 17% for boys compared to 9% of girls.

Snapchat, Instagram, YouTube and Facebook were revealed as the students' social media of choice.

The survey found 32% of first years said they had interacted with strangers online, but that figure jumped to 70% among sixth years.

Also, while 8% of first years had physically met online strangers, 38% of sixth years admitted meeting a stranger from the internet.

Zeeko said that as there is no law governing sexting in Ireland, education is crucial to manage children's behaviour online.

Highlights from the Zeeko's Digital Trend Report include:

  • Confirmation that hand-held tablets are a more popular device used by students between 1st and 6th class than smartphones, laptops, consoles or iPods.
     
  • 67% of children in 3rd class access the internet, play games online and use apps from a tablet as opposed to 42% using a laptop or desktop.
     
  • 50% of children in 5th class have one or two hours a day "screen time" and over 30% of first and second class children are spending 1 to 2 hours a day in front of screens.
     
  • IOS devices are more popular than Android amongst all age groups.
  • When asked "if they had ever been cyberbullied or experienced cyberbullying happening to people around them", the following numbers of students said they either had or knew someone who had been cyberbullied:

    - Sixth class students 34%
    - Second class 26%
    - Third class 26%
    - Fourth class 24%
    - Fifth class 23%
    - First class 15%

  • Over 54% of sixth class students have admitted to speaking to a stranger online.