Few teens sexting racy photos

2011-12-05 22:26

Chicago - Teen sexting of nude photos online or via cellphone may be far less common than people think, new research suggests.

Only 1% of kids aged 10 to 17 have shared images of themselves or others that involve explicit nudity, a nationally representative study found. Roughly the same number said they'd shared suggestive but less graphic photos; while 7% said they'd received either type of picture.

The research focused on teens only - not young adults, an age group included in some earlier studies which showed considerably higher sexting participation. The new study suggests texting of sexual photos among younger kids is rare.

The results are reassuring, showing that teen sexting isn't rampant, usually isn't malicious, and is generally not something parents should panic over, said lead author Kimberly Mitchell, a research assistant psychology professor at the University of New Hampshire.

Previous reports said as many as 1 in 5 young people, or 20%, have participated in sexting. But some surveys included older teens and people in their early 20s. And some used definitions of sexting that included racy text messages without photos, or images "no more revealing than what someone might see at a beach," authors of the new study said.

In the new study, researchers focused only on pictures, and asked more detailed questions about the kinds of racy photos kids are sharing.

The researchers did a separate study on how police deal with teen sexting of photos. Contrary to some reports, that research suggests few kids are being prosecuted or forced to register as sex offenders for sexting. It estimates that nearly 4 000 teen sexting cases were reported to police nationwide in 2008 and 2009.

Typically adolescent

Slightly more than one-third of those cases resulted in arrests. About one-third of all cases involved teens and young adults; the adults were much more likely to be arrested.

The studies were released on Monday in the journal Pediatrics.

The research shows that sexting can range from incidents that some teen health experts consider typical adolescent exploring - the 21st century version of sneaking a look at dad's Playboy magazine, to malicious cases with serious consequences made possible by today's technology.

For example, one case involved a 10-year-old boy who sent a cellphone picture of his genitals to an 11-year-old classmate "to gross her out". The girl's mother called police; the boy cried when questioned by police, who concluded he didn't understand the magnitude of his actions and left the matter to his parents.

Another involved a 16-year-old girl who said she accidentally posted a nude photo of herself on a social networking site. A 16-year-old boy at her school found the photo and distributed it to 100 people when she refused his demand to send him more nude pictures.

He was charged with a felony and was put on probation.

The results suggest that police generally aren't overreacting to teen sexting, said Janis Wolak, lead author of the second study. Some cases that aren't clearly criminal are still worrisome and warrant intervention by parents or others, she said.

In the first study, researchers questioned 1 560 kids nationwide by phone, with parents' permission, between in August 2010 and January of this year. The second study is based on mailed questionnaires to nearly 3 000 police departments and follow-up phone interviews with investigating officers about sexting cases handled in 2008 and 2009.

Teenagers do dumb things

The studies illustrate how sexting may include a wide range of teen behaviour, and highlight an issue "about which we as a society have gotten pretty hysterical and probably blew out of proportion," said Dr Michael Rich, director of the Centre on Media and Child Health at Children's Hospital Boston.

Exploring sexuality is normal behaviour for teens and taking pictures of themselves and others is one way "just to find out what it is like", he said. "We've been doing that since somebody scribbled a picture of a nude woman on the side of a cave and the guys gathered around to check it out."

Sexting is different only because it is happening "in an environment that the adult community doesn't understand as well as kids", Rich said.

Dr Victor Strasburger, an adolescent medicine expert at the University of New Mexico, said parents, schools and law enforcement authorities "need to understand that teenagers are neurologically programmed to do dumb things."

Their brains aren't mature enough to fully realise the consequences of their actions, including sexting, until early adulthood, he said.

Instead of prosecution, he said, there should be more emphasis on teaching teens to be responsible with new technology. Kids need to be told "that when you put things online and even when you send them via cellphone, they're potentially there forever."

- AP
Read more on:    us  |  online privacy  |  mobile
NEXT ON NEWS24X
SHARE:

Read News24’s Comments Policy

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
1 comment
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining
 

Inside News24

 
/News
 

Five wrapping hacks you have to know before Christmas

Five gift wrapping hacks that will save Christmas for you!

 
 

I love summer.24

Sexiest Instagrams of 2014
Joburg hot spots for cocktails, craft beer, tapas and wine!
Summer Survey!
Great ideas for the best summer sandwiches!

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Kalahari.com - shop online today

Grand Theft Auto 5

Now available on PS4, Xbox One and PC from R649. Buy now!

Festive gifts!

Check out our awesome range of festive gifts to make everyone’s wishes come true. Shop now!

Save on Samsung

Cameras, mobile phones, TVs, Tablets and more. While stocks last. Shop now!

Save up to R2200 on electronics! – As seen in the catalogue

Wishing for tech gadgets this festive? Save up to R2100 on hot tech products at kalahari.com. While stocks last. Shop now!

30% off the bestselling books

Save big on the most captivating reads of 2014. While stocks last. Shop now!

OLX Free Classifieds [change area]

Samsung Galaxy s4

Mobile, Cell Phones in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 24

Best bargain in big bay

Real Estate, Houses - Apartments for Sale in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

VW Golf 6, 1.6 Trendline (Excellent condition)

Vehicles, Cars in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

Horoscopes
Aquarius
Aquarius

It is hard to keep some sort of balance when the natural rhythm has flown out the window. The best thing to do is try not to keep...read more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.








Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.