Sexting is the act of sending sexually explicit photographs or messages via your cell phone.
The Internet is a vast, unchartered space. Technology has expanded so much that our means of communication has forever changed to include text messaging, emailing, instant messaging, video calling, and emailing. As a result, we are faced with things like sexting. One of the most troublesome things about sexting is its wide reach. A text message can circulate remarkably fast and beyond the control of its original sender.
A recent study has shown the following:
- 20 percent of teenagers (22 percent of girls and 18 percent of boys) sent naked or seminude images of themselves or posted them online
- nearly one in six teens between the ages of 12 and 17 who own cell phones have received naked or nearly nude pictures via text message from someone they know.
Notably, researchers at University of Texas Medical Branch discovered teens that sext are more likely to engage in sexual behaviors:
- 28% of teens admitted to having sent a sext.
- 76.2% of teens who were asked to sext admitted to having had sexual intercourse.
- 68% of Girls were asked to send a sext vs 42% of boys
- The peak age of sexting is around 16-17 years old
- Sexting seems to decline in people 18+
From the perspective of the criminal justice system, teen sexting can fall under the child pornography statutes. For example, a teen that takes a nude photograph of themselves has created child pornography; as soon as they hit “send” they have distributed child pornography. The significant danger lies in the fact that these images inevitably get passed around and often spread like wildfire across a school. This creates an environment rife with bullying, shaming, exclusion, and in some cases, suicide: An 18-year-old high school graduate committed suicide after a nude photo she sexted to her boyfriend was also sent to hundreds of teenagers in her school.
Thus far, only 17 states have sexting laws in place.
Here’s what you can do to prevent sexting:
- Parents, talk to your kids in a safe, relaxed setting about the perils of sexting. Ask what they know about it. Express how you feel in a non-threatening, non-confrontational way. Create a healthy, two-way dialogue. Remember, you get more flies with honey than you do with vinegar.
- Some kids are responding to peer pressure in the form of bullying, sexual harassment—after a breakup, those images can be used as revenge. Sometimes it’s impulsive behavior or flirting. Help your child understand that it is always a poor choice.
- Think about the consequences of taking, sending, or forwarding a comprising photograph to someone via text. You could get suspended, expelled, kicked off of a sports team, and/or get in trouble with the law.
- Never take photographs of yourself you wouldn’t want everyone to see (classmates, parents, teachers, employers)
- Before hitting “send,” remember that you cannot control where this image goes. What you send to your romantic partner or friend could be forwarded to their friends and friends of friends.
- If you forward an image of someone that is compromising, you are as responsible as the original sender. You have essentially become complicit in someone else’s criminal activity.
- Report any nude or compromising photographs you receive on your phone to an adult you trust. Do NOT delete it. Instead, immediately get your parents, teachers, and school counselors involved.
 The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy and Cosmogirl.com, “Sex and Tech: Results from a Survey of Teens and Young Adults”;http://www.thenationalcampaign.org/sextech/PDF/SexTech_Summary.pdf
 John Sutter, “Survey: 15 Percent of Teens Get Sexual Text Messages”;http://www.cnn.com/2009/TECH/12/15/pew.sexting.survey/index.html
 Justin W. Patchin”Summery of State Sexting Laws, http://cyberbullying.us/summary-of-state-sexting-laws/