Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Another Sexting Story

Another day, another story about teenage sexting. Leroy Wong, A colleague of mine sent a link to this story from CNN. It is another case in which a teen is convicted of a crime after he sent out a nude photo of his ex-girlfriend via cell phone to friends. As is the case in many of these incidents, his girlfriend willingly sent him the photo of herself. Angry, after an argument, the teen decided to send the picture of her out to other people. As a result, he pleaded no contest to a felony charge of sending child pornography. He is now a registered sex offender in the state of Florida until he is 43 years old. He can't leave the country without making special plans with his probation officer and he has trouble finding a job because he is a convicted felon.

There are more and more cases like this popping up all over the country and it has set off a debate on whether or not teenagers should be punished so severely for sexting. There are those who consider it child pornography and that the offenders should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. Then there are those who think that it is just teen indiscretion, child pornography laws were not made to be enforced in these types of cases.

One of the more interesting things that came out of this article is about a survey done by and National Campaign to Prevent Teen & Unplanned Pregnancy. They surveyed about 1300 teens and young adults from ages 13-26 years old about sexting. Any of the findings they labeled as "teens" were from the group of 13-19 year olds. The results are very interesting including:
  • 20% of the teens surveyed have sent nude or semi-nude photos of themselves
  • 39% of the teens surveyed have sent sexually explicit messages
  • 75% of the teens surveyed say sending sexually suggestive content "can have serious negative consequences"
So, 3 out of 4 kids surveyed know that there are negative consequences associated with sexting, but some of them are doing it anyway. In fact 44% of the teens say it is common for these pictures and messages to be shared with other people than the intended recipient. So the question is why do they do it? Here are the answers according to the survey:

Among teens who have sent sexually suggestive content:
  • 66% of teen girls and 60% of teen boys say they did
    so to be “fun or flirtatious”— their most common
    reason for sending sexy content.
  • 52% of teen girls did so as a “sexy present” for their
  • 44% of both teen girls and teen boys say they sent
    sexually suggestive messages or images in response
    to such content they received.
  • 40% of teen girls said they sent sexually suggestive
    messages or images as “a joke.”
  • 34% of teen girls say they sent/posted sexually suggestive
    content to “feel sexy.”
  • 12% of teen girls felt “pressured” to send sexually
    suggestive messages or images.
Along with this very insightful survey, the National Campaign to Prevent Teen & Unplanned Pregnancy website gives tips to parents on how to talk to their children about sexting. They also have a great tip sheet for teens as well, one that should be shared with all texting teens.

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