A new study shows that smartphone users are much more likely to be exposed to harmful content online than their peers, with one in five of them exposed to sexually explicit content, the Associated Press has learned.
Mobile users were also more likely than other users to have been exposed to images that showed child pornography or sexual abuse, according to a new study published in the journal Pediatrics.
The findings show that many people are not getting the message that the image they are seeing online is not necessarily safe for their children.
The study, which examined 1,097 photos, was conducted by researchers at the University of British Columbia and the University at Buffalo.
They compared the content of images that appeared on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to that in a standard photo.
The researchers also looked at images posted by children to see if the images were more likely in the majority of cases to depict content related to sexual abuse.
In the study, the researchers found that 4.6 percent of the photos contained images that were sexual in nature.
About 1.3 percent showed content related that way to sexual violence, such as images of sexual abuse and child pornography.
The number of images of sexually explicit material also was higher in some images than in others, with more than 1 in 5 photos containing images of child pornography and more than 10 percent containing images showing sexual abuse or violence.
“Mobile users are showing more inappropriate content,” said researcher Elizabeth Taggart, an assistant professor in the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences at the university.
“We are seeing this as a global problem.”
More than a quarter of the children who viewed a child pornography picture or image had experienced exposure to it in the past year, while 4 percent of children reported exposure to sexually-explicit material in the last year, according the researchers.
The study was funded by the U.S. National Institute of Mental Health and the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.