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From Social Networking to Sexual Networking: The Latest on Teen Sexting

Tim Boyer's picture

One extension of social networking via ubiquitous handheld electronic devices is that of a type of sexual networking known as “sexting.” Past news reports focused on teen sexting, typically painted a picture of teen sexting as the result of a youthful indiscretion “for your eyes only” nude image from a girlfriend to a boyfriend via her cellphone and/or someone who had succumbed to social pressure and “got talked into” sending a sexual image of herself. However, according to a recent study, some surprising results include that sexual texting is on the rise and teen views of sexting indicate a growing shared belief that sexting is acceptable behavior.

In the study conducted by Donald Strassberg from the University of Utah and recently published in the journal Archives of Sexual Behavior, he and his colleagues wanted to determine how prevalent teen sexting is and whether teens participating in sexting were aware that the consequences of being caught could result in charges of being in possession or distribution of child pornography with the possibility of being legally labeled as a registered sex offender.

Mr. Strassberg and his colleagues submitted a questionnaire to 606 high school students that inquired about their sexting experiences, how knowledgeable they are of the consequences of being caught sexting, and their personal views on sexting.

What the questionnaires revealed was that sending sexually explicit photos by cell phone is more common among teens than most people realize.

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Close to 20% of the 606 high school students reported that they had sent sexual images of themselves using their cell phones and that almost twice as many students reported having received such images. Of those who had received sexually explicit images, 25% admitted to forwarding the images to others.

Furthermore, of those who had forwarded the images, over 1/3 did so in spite of knowing that there could be serious legal consequences if caught and charged by authorities. The questionnaires also showed that this group was also more likely to view their sexting activities as acceptable behavior in comparison to high school students who reported not having forwarded sexual images.

The authors of the study concluded that more needs to be done to stem the rise in sexting by teens and curtail sexting as acceptable behavior. The authors state that, "These results argue for educational efforts such as cell phone safety assemblies, awareness days, integration into class curriculum and teacher training, designed to raise awareness about the potential consequences of sexting among young people."

Image Source: Courtesy of MorgueFile

Reference: “Sexting by high school students: an exploratory and descriptive study” Archives of Sexual Behavior; DOI 10.1007/s10508-012-9969-8; Strassberg DS et al (2012).