More Teens Are Sexting
Special Report - January 4, 2010
A recent survey by the Pew Research Center found that four percent of teens with a cell phone have sent sexually suggestive, nude or nearly nude pictures of themselves and 15 percent of teens have received such images via text messaging. The new phenomenon is often referred to as “sexting.” The Pew Research Center’s Internet and American Life Project surveyed 12-17 year-olds from June through October of 2009 to ask determine teen participation in and opinion of sexting.
Focus groups of teens revealed three common scenarios for teens exchanging provocative imagessolely between romantic partners, between partners, which are then shared outside the relationship, between people who are not in a relationship, but one person hopes to be. Older teens and teens who pay their own cell phone bills are the most likely to send and receive suggestive, nude, or nearly nude pictures. While four percent of all teens have sent such images, twice that many8 percentof 17 year olds with a cell phone have sent a sexually provocative image. Four percent of 12 year olds who own a cell phone have received sexually suggestive images. However, five times that many 16 year olds and 30 percent of 17 year olds have received similar images as text messages. While four percent of teens with a phone have sent provocative images, the number jumps to 17 percent among teens who pay for all the costs associated with their cell phone.
More teens own cell phones and text today. The percentage of 17 year olds who own a phone has jumped from 64 percent in 2004 to 83 percent in 2009. Fifty percent more 12 year olds own a cell phone today (58 percent) than in 2004. Fully three-fourths of 12 to 17 year olds own a cell phone today, and 66 percent of teens use text messaging.
“The desire for risk-taking and sexual exploration during the teenage years combined with a constant connection via mobile devices creates a ‘perform storm’ for sexting,” according to Amanda Lenhart, senior research specialist for Pew and author of the study. “Teenagers have always grappled with issues around sex and relationships, but their coming-of-age mistakes and transgressions have never been so easily transmitted and archived for others to see.”
A handful of state legislatures have enacted or proposed legislation to either criminalize texting or to “downgrade the charges for creating or trading sexually suggestive images of minors by text from felonies to misdemeanors” in response to this growing trend.
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