Some use sexting to flirt or prove commitment, others to have fun, and still others to “show off” or gain recognition. Others use it to hurt, harass and humiliate.
Surveys consistently show that a rapidly increasing number of teens and young adults are “sexting”. A combination of the words “sex” and “text messaging” - “sexting” is the sending of sexually provocative messages or images to and from cell phones and computers. Some use sexting to flirt or prove commitment, others to have fun, and still others to “show off” or gain recognition. Unfortunately some use it to hurt or harass. But regardless of the intent, many who engage in sexting either do not fully understand the potential consequences or ignore them.
A survey conducted by The National Campaign in 2008 showed that 20% of teens (ages 13-19) and 33% of young adults (ages 20-26) have electronically sent nude or semi-nude photos of themselves. The majority of teens have sent such images to a boyfriend or girlfriend, however 15% have sent the images to someone they only knew online. Almost 40% of teens have sent sexually suggestive messages. Although many teens (38% of girls and 39% of boys) say they have been shown nude or semi-nude images originally intended for someone else, they continue to send them.
It is important for teens and parents to realize the consequences of distributing sexually provocative images and messages. The bottom line is that it increases visibility and accessibility - and therefore, risk.
The most likely consequences include embarrassment, humiliation and harm to reputation. It is always important to keep in mind that once an image has been sent electronically, it can appear anywhere, at anytime. If posted to a website, there is probably no practical way to have it removed. Current or future employers, college admissions officers, athletic coaches and others may become of aware of the images or messages, bringing into question the character of a person.
The potential results can be painful. In some cases the humiliation has become so difficult to handle that people have believed that their lives were ruined. Across the country, some teens are now even facing child pornography charges for sending or receiving sexually provocative images of themselves or others if under the age of 18. Under state or Federal statutes, criminal charges can range from misdemeanors to felonies.
Reading, Resources and Videos:
The National Campaign
NBC News – Today Show – “Sexting: Jesse Logan Story” - 3/6/2009 (video)
CBS News- Early Show – “Dangers of Sexting” – 1/15/2009 (video)
ABC News – “Sexting Teens Can Go Too Far” – 3/13/2009 (video)
CNN News – “Sexting Lands Teen on Sex Offender List” – 3/8/2009 (video)
Cox Communications – “Take Charge News” (Research)