Sexting not prevalent among teens
Another study suggests few arrested when police learn of teen sexting
Posted: Dec 5, 2011 9:16 AM ET
Last Updated: Dec 5, 2011 12:10 PM ET
Few teens are sending sexually explicit images but young people still need to be educated about the consequences, U.S. researchers say.
Given that little is known about how commonly youth make and distribute sexual images in either the U.S. or Canada, Kimberly Mitchell of the Crimes against Children Research Center at the University of New Hampshire in Durham and her co-authors conducted a national telephone survey of 1,560 internet users aged 10 through 17.
Participants were questioned with parents' permission between in August 2010 and January this year.
They found 2½ per cent of respondents said they appeared in or created nude or nearly nude pictures or videos.
"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 Mitchell. The percentage of youth involved in sexting was one per cent when the definition included only sexually explicit images, a new U.S. study has found. Fernando Llano/Associated Press
The percentage fell to one per cent when the definition of sexting was narrowed to include only sexually explicit images showing naked breasts, genitals or buttocks that potentially violate child pornography laws.
Almost six per cent surveyed said they had received one.
"The rate of youth exposure to sexting highlights a need to provide them with information about legal consequences of sexting and advice about what to do if they receive a sexting image," the study's authors concluded in Monday's issue of the journal Pediatrics.
"However, the data suggest that appearing in, creating or receiving sexual images is far from being a normative behaviour for youth."
Few sexting arrests involving youth
Most children who have participated do so as a prank or while in a relationship, and a significant number of the incidents (31 per cent) included alcohol or drug use.
A survey of teenagers in 2008 found 22 per cent of girls and 18 per cent of boys had sent or received one of the messages, based on a broader definition of sexting that included text messages without photos, or images "no more revealing than what someone might see at a beach," Mitchell and her co-authors said.
A second study appearing in the same issue of the journal found that when teen sexting images do come to police attention, few youth are being arrested or treated like sex offenders.
Janis Wolak of the same centre and co-authors mailed surveys to 2,712 law enforcement agencies and then conducted detailed telephone surveys with 675.
U.S. law enforcement agencies handled an estimated 3, 477 cases of youth-produced sexual images during 2008 and 2009.
Of these, two-thirds involved "aggravating" circumstance beyond the creation or dissemination of a sexual image, such as abusive behaviour or when an adult was exploiting the young person.
Most of the images (63 per cent) were distributed by cellphone only and did not reach the internet.
Overall, arrest was not typical in cases when there were no adults involved, the study's authors concluded.
Teen brains programmed to do 'dumb things'
Toronto police investigator Stuart Fleming of the force's child exploitation unit said it does not keep figures on sexting, but his team does advise young people about it.
When children or young adults have a propensity to send images on social media, "We usually tell them to look at that image and imagine that it's been printed on a T-shirt, front and back," Fleming said.
"Would they wear that T-shirt out in public? If they hesitate at all then they should not be sharing that image on the internet or on their cellphones with each other or however else they want to share it."
Dr. Victor Strasburger, an adolescent medicine expert at the University of New Mexico, said parents, schools and law enforcement authorities "need to understand that teenagers are neurologically programmed to do dumb things." Their brains aren't mature enough to fully realize the consequences of their actions, including sexting, until early adulthood, he said.
Strasburger agreed with Mitchell and Fleming that there should be more emphasis on teaching teens to be responsible with new technology, such as learning that when things are put online, they're potentially there forever.With files from CBC's Lorenda Reddekopp and The Associated Press
Top News Headlines
- Oklahoma tornado recovery work begins after deadly storm
- Harper speaks to Tory caucus on Senate scandal
- Prime Minister Stephen Harper will give a televised address to the Conservative caucus this morning and comment on the Senate expenses controversy that prompted the weekend resignation of his chief of staff, and forced senators Mike Duffy and Pam Wallin to step aside. more »
- Keith Boag: Have you heard about the murderous abortion doctor?
- Fearful Oklahoma families search for children
- Baseball fuels dreams, desperation in Dominican Republic
- The Toronto Blue Jays have a number of stars from the Dominican Republic, but in the shadow of these successful players is an equally important story about hope and poverty, and a country desperately struggling to balance the two. more »
Latest Health News Headlines
- Sleeping with parents always risky for infants, study suggests
- Sharing a bed with their parents increased the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) in babies under three months old by at least a factor of five, even without any other risk factors, the largest ever analysis of individual cases suggests. more »
- Flu shot for health workers urged by Ont. medical officer
- Ontario's chief medical officer of health is renewing her push for health-care workers, particularly those in long-term care, to get their shots. more »
- Saudi coronavirus work stymied at Canadian lab
- The National Microbiology Laboratory in Winnipeg is working with a sample of the new coronavirus that's causing clusters of infections abroad - but can't share the material with other researchers across the country despite the public health urgency. more »
- Should genetic testing for cancer be available to all Canadians?
- The revelation that Hollywood celebrity Angelina Jolie had a double mastectomy as a preventative measure against cancer stoked heated discussion this past week, but one prominent cancer researcher says it demonstrates the need to make genetic testing available to all Canadians. more »
- Oklahoma tornado recovery work begins after dozens killed
- 51 dead after tornado levels Oklahoma suburbs
- Edmonton driver, 62, charged in boy's patio death
- Unknown remains found on Dellen Millard's farm
- Will alleged Rob Ford video overshadow Toronto casino debate?
- Netflix and the rise of binge TV watching
- Harper to address Tory caucus amid Senate scandal
- Ray Manzarek of The Doors dies at 74
- Central Newfoundland digs out from freak snowfall