Los Angeles Times (12.05.11) - Friday, December 16, 2011
The first study to look at the prevalence of "sexting" -
sending sexually explicit pictures of oneself via digital
media - among teens finds the practice is not as common as
many parents fear.
The team surveyed 1,560 Internet-using children ages 10-17.
When asked broadly about sexting, 2.5 percent said they had
made or appeared in "nude or nearly nude pictures or videos"
of themselves. However, just 1 percent of the youths said they
had engaged in explicit sexting - pictures showing "naked
breasts, genitals or bottoms" - during the past year. Older
teens were far more likely than younger children to create,
send, or receive sexual images.
Just 10 percent of youths who created sexually explicit images
of themselves actually sent them to others, and 3 percent of
kids who received such images forwarded them. The youths
defined sexting in broader terms than adults.
Twenty-eight percent of youths making or receiving sexts
reported them to adults or authorities or were caught getting
or sending such messages. Most sexting is created in the
context of a prank or an existing romantic relationship.
Approximately three in 10 sexts occurred in situations where
alcohol or drug use was an aggravating factor.
"The data suggest that appearing in, creating, or receiving
sexual images is far from being a normative behavior for
youth," said investigators from the University of New
Hampshire's Crimes Against Children Research Center.
Widespread reporting on the trend, legal actions against some
who engage in it, and unfamiliarity with kids' digital worlds
can skew parents' understanding of sexting, they said.
The study, "Prevalence and Characteristics of Youth Sexting: A
National Study," was published online in Pediatrics (2011;doi: