Concerns about teen sexting overblown, according to new research

Two new studies from the University of New Hampshire Crimes against Children Research Center suggest that concerns about teen sexting may be overblown. One study found the percentage of youth who send nude pictures of themselves that would qualify as child pornography is very low. The other found that when teen sexting images do come to police attention, few youth are being arrested or treated like sex offenders.

The studies were carried out by researchers at UNH's Crimes against Children Research Center, and published online today by the journal Pediatrics. The research is presented in the studies "Prevalence and Characteristics of Youth Sexting: A National Study" and "How Often Are Teens Arrested for Sexting? Data From a National Sample of Police Cases."

In the first study, UNH researchers surveyed 1,560 ages 10 through 17 about their experiences with sexting -- appearing in, creating, or receiving sexual images or videos via cell phone or the Internet. The study found that 2.5 percent of youth surveyed have participated in sexting in the past year, but only 1 percent involved images that potentially violate child pornography laws -- images that showed "naked breasts, or bottoms."

"Lots of people may be hearing about these cases discovered by schools and parents because they create a furor, but it still involves a very small minority of youth," said lead author Kimberly Mitchell, research assistant professor of psychology at the UNH Crimes against Children Research Center.

In the second study, researchers discovered that in most sexting cases investigated by the police, no juvenile arrest occurred. There was an arrest in 36 percent of the cases where there were aggravating activities by youth, such as using the images to blackmail or harass other youth. In cases without aggravating elements, the arrest rate was 18 percent.

The second study was based on a national sample of 675 sexting cases collected from a systematic survey of law enforcement agencies. The study also found that the very few teens who were subjected to sex offender registration had generally committed other serious offenses such as sexual assault.

"Most law enforcement officials are handling these cases in a thoughtful way and not treating teens like and child pornographers," said lead author Janis Wolak, senior researcher at the UNH Crimes against Children Research Center.

In both studies, researchers found that sexual images of youth rarely were widely distributed online as many parents, youth, and fear. In the teen survey, 90 percent of the said the images they created did not go beyond the intended recipient. Even in the cases where the images came to the attention of the police, two-thirds of the images stayed on cell phones and never circulated online.

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Pressure forces teens to 'sext': Australian study

Sep 30, 2011

Teenagers are under pressure to send nude photos of themselves and other sexual images from their mobile phones as "sexting" becomes more widespread, new Australian research shows.

Australian youngsters warned over 'sexting'

Apr 28, 2010

Australia's government urged young people not to join the "sexting" craze on Wednesday, warning that sending provocative images by mobile phone could have "very bad long-term consequences".

States weigh relaxing penalties for teen sexting

Jun 13, 2011

(AP) -- A congressman who sends an X-rated photo of himself jeopardizes his reputation and his job. But in many states, teens caught doing the same thing can risk felony charges, jail time and being branded sexual offenders.

'Sexting' no worse than spin-the-bottle: study

May 26, 2009

Youths exchanging nude photos of themselves over cellphones, known as "sexting," should not face child pornography charges, as some have in the United States, a humanities conference heard Tuesday.

Vt. may set aside harshest penalties for 'sexting'

Apr 14, 2009

(AP) -- Parents, school districts and law enforcement have been grappling with what to do with teenagers who take sexually explicit photos of themselves with their cell phone cameras and send them to friends.

Recommended for you

Researchers review help for navigating 'Dr Google'

7 hours ago

With the onset of the digital age more and more people are turning to 'Dr Google' for health and medical information, however local researchers are worried about a lack of resources for helping consumers ...

User comments

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Vendicar_Decarian
1 / 5 (1) Dec 05, 2011
Walking down a beach, I am often not quite sure which bottoms are covered by thongs, and all of the beaches are topless.

Can some one tell me which of these Cherub's are pornography and which aren't?

http://www.waterp...tern.jpg

http://parisparfa...ub_2.jpg

http://www.wilton...main.jpg

http://proxy.bare...rubs.jpg

http://sacredmint...t_lg.jpg

http://www.fromol...x287.jpg

http://www.fromol...x500.jpg