Teens go nowhere without their devices these days. This enables them to be in constant communication with friends and family. However, there can be another side to this, even if those devices are used for sexting, which is sharing sexually explicit messages, photos or videos. According to a recent study on sexting, researchers at the University of New Hampshire and Boston University estimate that 14.8% of minors age 10-17 engage in sexting.
This has been an issue of concern with parents, educators and law enforcement as younger and younger children interact with each other on a digital platform. It can happen via regular text, various social networks and other emerging forms of internet messaging.
The unfortunate side effect of this is that many kids do not consider the consequences of their actions before doing it. They may understand that it is not right to engage in this sort of activity. Still, they may not realize it is a crime, nor did many believe that it would impact a romantic relationship, relationships with their friends and bonds to their family.
Other notable facets of this behavior:
- It becomes increasingly common as the children get older.
- Boys were less likely to report sexting to authorities.
- Boys were more likely to engage in this behavior.
- Boys were less likely to condemn the actions of those who engage in this behavior.
- Minors were more likely to sext if they also engaged in sexual intercourse, drug and alcohol use or pornography consumption.
- 12% of teens said they forwarded a sext without permission, and 8% of teens reported this happening.
What can be done?
Pediatricians recommend that sexting be part of any discussion about sex and sex education. It should be done as early as is age-appropriate.
According to child development experts, “Adolescence is a time of life in which teenagers are learning about their own bodies, how to take risks, and about romantic attractions. For some teenagers, engaging in sexting may feel like a way to explore their attraction to someone.”
What are the legal risks?
The circumstances of a sexting incident will dictate the severity of the matter, with consent and age being two critical factors. It could get more complicated if one of the parties is a legal adult. Regardless of the circumstances, parents with teens charged with sexting should take the matter very seriously. While a couple in a consenting relationship likely will not be labeled a sex offender, it is essential to work with an attorney who handles sex crimes to help minimize these charges.