Moral disengagement

Moral disengagement is used to describe the ways in which we convince ourselves to do something that we know is wrong, or to not do something we know is right. MediaSmarts’ research looked at the impact of four moral disengagement mechanisms:

  • finding a way to view sharing as being actually positive: “When a girl’s sext gets shared, it shows other girls the risks”
  • denying the harm of sharing: “Sharing sexts is so common, nobody cares about it”
  • shifting responsibility away from themselves: “If I share a text with just one person and then he shares it with others, it isn’t really my fault”
  • blaming the victim: “A girl shouldn’t be surprised if her sexts get shared after a breakup.”

Half (53%) of youth in the top third of moral disengagement scores have shared a sext, a sixth (17%) of those in the middle third have, and one in ten (11%) of those in the bottom third have – an effect that was the same for both boys and young men as it was for girls and young women.