My mum thought I was over at my friend’s house the whole time.’It would be easy to assume that such a degrading experience would put Becky off internet ‘dating’ for ever.But as an overweight, insecure teenager, she was desperate for the empty compliments that were showered on her in return for sexual favours — and the encounter was to mark the start of a five-year addiction to having sex with men she met on the internet.Researchers at the university found that one in ten 16 to 24-year-olds have used the internet to set up one-night stands with strangers.Half of those surveyed have carried out explicit sexual behaviour over a webcam, while 40 per cent of 11 to 18-year-olds questioned admitted knowing friends who engage in ‘sexting’ — sending explicit messages or photos between mobile phones.Alone in a hotel room with a man she’d met only half-an-hour earlier, Becky Stevens knew it was too late to back out.For six months, the 15-year-old had been chatting online to ‘Stuart’ after meeting him on an internet dating site.
But Becky is now choosing to speak out because, when she eventually told her friends about the mistakes she had made, it transpired that she was far from the only one who had become involved with strangers over the internet.
Like Becky, while she gets little attention from boys at school, in cyberspace there’s no shortage of admirers.
Despite her young age, she has slept with five men ranging in age from 18 to 31, and had cybersex with many more.
Worryingly, while the sites are intended for over 18s, neither conducted verifiable age checks.
With the online porn and dating industries exploding — the latter is worth £2.5 billion worldwide — experts are increasingly worried that extreme, and often risky, sexual behaviour among young people is being normalised by the internet.
To add to concerns, mobile ‘dating apps’ are being created which allow people to locate strangers in a specific geographical area for ‘hook-ups’.