'Sexting' Prevalent Among High-Schoolers, Study Finds
According to a University of Utah-led survey published in Archives of Sexual Behavior, one in five teens admit to “sexting,” or sending sexually explicit photos, typically of themselves, with their cell phones. Twice as many reported receiving such images.
“It has become so easy to do this, and kids are largely oblivious to all the kinds of legal and important personal, psychological, interpersonal consequences this can have,” said lead author Donald Strassberg.
Sexting among teens is criminal under Utah law. In the past, a Davis County teen was accused of threatening to distribute nude photos of a classmate unless she granted him sexual favors. “Once you put it out there, it’s out there. You don’t have any control over it any more,” said Verne Larsen, a safe-schools specialist with the Utah State Office of Education. Tragic cases have been reported of teenage girls committing suicide after their photos were passed around the phones of classmates.
Public school districts would not allow Strassberg’s team to survey students, so the survey was done at an Intermountain state private school. A 10-minute questionnaire was administered to 606 students, asking if they had ever received, sent or forwarded sexually explicit images, defined as photos showing bare genitals, breasts, or backsides.
Thirty percent of girls and 50 percent of boys reported receiving sext messages. Of those, one in four said they had forwarded such an image. Barely a quarter of the students described their thoughts on potential legal consequences; of those, only 58 percent said the consequences could include criminal charges.
Strassberg believes his results from a single school can be generalized to US society. His data agree with a yet-to-be-published study based on interviews with 1,200 University of Utah undergraduates regarding sexting when they were in high school.
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