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Is Your Teen "Sexting?"

Posted by Chrissie Cole
Monday, December 15, 2008 6:48 AM EST
Category: Protecting Your Family
Tags: Cell Phones, Sexting, Teenagers, Cell Phone Use, Social Networking


IMAGE SOURCE:© iStockPhoto/ teen texting / author: LeggNet

Gone are the days of passing a note to the cute boy in Chemistry class to tell him that you totally like him! Like oh my god!

The digital age of teenage flirting is called “sexting” (instead of “texting”) and it involves sending nude or semi-nude photos from cell phone to cell phone.

The sexy snapshots may be intended just for a girlfriend or boyfriend to see, but the photos often wind up being shared.

According to a recent study conducted by, The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, a nonprofit group, sexting is a growing trend in middle schools and high schools across the country.

For the study, 1,280 teens and young adults were surveyed. Nearly a third of the young adults ages 20-26 and 20 percent of teens say they have sent or posted naked or semi-naked photos or videos of themselves online.

The survey also found that 1 out of 3 teen boys say they have seen or received such images to their cell phones.

An estimated 80 percent of teens between 13 to 17 use cell phones and most have built-in cameras. After a breakup many of those photos get posted on social media sites such as Facebook and MySpace as well as cell phones belonging to other classmate’s.

“Parents need to be on the lookout and extremely concerned about what their teenagers may be doing with their cell phones,” says child psychologist, Dr. Karen Peterson, from Phoenix Children’s Hospital.

The troubling combination of teenagers acting impulsively and provocatively is not new, but the accessibility to the technology is.

What teens fail to realize are the serious consequences. News reports are increasingly documenting legal backlash after indecent photos appear online. And attorneys say many questions remain unanswered about whether young people who send their own photos could potentially face prosecution for obscenity or child pornography.

In Wisconsin, a 17-year-old boy was charged with possessing child pornography after posting naked pictures of his ex-girlfriend, 16, online.

And four middle-school students in Alabama were arrested for exchanging nude photos. In Rochester, New York, a 16-year-old boy is facing up to seven years in prison for forwarding a nude photo of a girl, 15, to his friends.

“When the laws were written, I don’t think that’s what was contemplated,” says the Rochester teen’s attorney, Tom Splain, who has worked on many similar cases. “I think the law was intended for the older pedophile collecting pictures of young children; but now we’re running into high school students getting caught up in these charges.”

Five Things to Consider Before Pressing Send

-- Do not make the mistake of assuming what you send or post is going to remain private. Chances are it won’t and it’s very easy for your private photos and videos to be shared with other classmates and online on various social sites like Facebook and YouTube.

-- There is no changing your mind in cyberspace—anything you send or post will never truly go away. You will not be able to change your mind and have your photos/videos removed from sites you have no control over.

-- Don’t give in to the pressure to do something that makes you uncomfortable, even in cyberspace. Think twice, it’s not worth it.

-- Nothing is truly anonymous. Nearly everything can be traced back to the source.

-- Consider the recipient’s reaction.

Read the study, Sex and Tech, in full. #

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