Study: Few Teens Engaging in Full-Fledged ‘Sexting’

A new study has found that while one out of ten 10-17-year-olds has sent or received a sexually suggestive text message on a cell phone, only out of 100 of those images would constitute “child pornography” as it is currently defined by the law.  The New York Times reports that though the study, which was published in the journal Pediatrics, does not point to widespread child pornography on cell phones, the data does confirm that tweens and teens are using technology as part of exploring their sexuality:

Over all, the new report found, 149 youths interviewed for the study, or 9.6 percent, said they had sent or received images that included full or partial nudity in the previous year. Just over 2 percent of those who engaged in sexting said they had appeared in the pictures or had taken them themselves, and 7.1 percent said they received sexual images from someone else.

In most cases, the motivations for sending or forwarding sexual texts were not malicious. Most of the youths who sent such messages said that they did so with someone they were involved in a relationship with, or that their messages were flirtatious gestures to someone they had a romantic interest in.

About 31 percent who appeared in or took sexual images said that alcohol or drug use had been a factor. And despite public concerns about lewd photographs of minors that start out as private messages becoming widely distributed, only 3 percent of the minors in the study said they had forwarded sexual photographs that they had received.

The fact that about a third of sexual messages were created or sent when alcohol or drugs were involved suggests that the children who are doing the riskiest messaging are engaging in other risky behaviors as well, said Nancy Baym, a professor of communication studies at the University of Kansas and author of the book “Personal Connections in the Digital Age.”

Image: Teenage girl texting, via Shutterstock

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