New study about ‘sexting’ and teens

5 Dec

We live in a society with few personal controls and even fewer people recognize boundaries which should govern their behavior and how they treat others. Lindsey Tanner of AP is reporting about a new study which finds fewer teens than previously thought are participating in the type of “sexting” where nude pictures are sent. In the article, Few teens sexting racy photos, new research says, Tanner reports:

Updated 10:18 p.m., Sunday, December 4, 2011

  • Chart shows sexting rate among 10-17 year-olds Photo: AP / AP

According to this study, the majority of teens are not involved in sending inappropriate texts.

Here are key facts from the study, which also examined other studies:


Recent media reports have given the impression that “sexting” is a problem of epidemic proportions among teenagers today. However, analysis of the relevant research to date reveals that there is little consistency in the estimated prevalence of sexting among adolescents. In addition, the high estimates that have received the most media attention come from studies with a number of problems including unrepresentative samples, vaguely defined terms, and great potential for public misperception. Many otherwise valid findings have been presented

by the media in ways that exaggerate the true extent of the problem. While sexting does seem to occur among a notable minority of adolescents, there is little reliable evidence that the problem is as far‐reaching as many media reports have suggested. Although more conservative estimates do exist,4 these statistics are not as widely publicized.

Changes should be made to improve future studies on this topic. First, researchers should limit samples to only include minors (age 17 or younger) if they wish to address the primary concerns about youth‐produced child pornography. While it may be interesting to study sexting rates among young adults, sexual images of this population are not illegal and should not be combined with estimates of sexting among minors.

Second, terminology should be consistent among studies, accurately reported by the media, and adequately explained to youth participants. Using terms such as “nude or nearly‐nude images” may confuse teens participating in the studies and result in inaccurate estimates. It would also be best to focus only on images, not written exchanges, because sexual photographs of minors are illegal; sexual text messages between youth are generally not. If researchers used this standard terminology, more meaningful comparisons could be made between studies.

It is clear that a standardized definition of sexting is needed. Although sexting has become a popular term among the public, it has come to encompass too many activities to make it an appropriate term for formal research. Instead, the authors suggest using the term “youth‐produced sexual images,” defined as images created by minors (age 17 or younger) that depict minors and that are or could be considered child pornography under criminal statutes.

Third, there should be a greater emphasis on who these youth are sharing sexual images with and their reasons for doing this. While most media reports focus on youth sexting among peers, some youth may be sending sexual images to people they barely know, such as people they meet online.


The True Prevalence of “Sexting”

Kaitlan Lounsbury, Kimberly J . MIitchell & David Finkelhour

Crimes Against Children Research Center

Common Sense Media has some great resources for parents about teaching children how to use media responsibly. Their information about Talking About “Sexting” is excellent.

Joyce Meyer often says “hurting people hurt other people.” We seem to be a culture of the walking wounded. The key is to channel the hurt away from self-destructive activities and into something more life affirming. Children, especially girls, need to feel good about themselves, particularly their body image. For some girls, sports have been a lifesaver. For other girls, whatever their talent or their interest(s) are, those interest(s) need to be encouraged. Too often, girls are “hooking up” before they are ready because everyone else is doing it or just because. The focus for children should be to find their voice. A wag once said to the Dixie Chicks, a popular female country crossover group, after they got involved in a political flap, shut-up and sing. Well, children, shut-up and sing.

Dr. Wilda says this about that ©

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