Sexting, which is defined as texting words, images or videos with sexual content that contains ‘raunchy’ wording, nudity or someone performing a sexual act, is becoming an increasingly popular means for young people to connect with each other. Advances in technology often bring with them unintended negative consequences, and sexting has opened up channels for abuse.
MTV recently conducted 1,355 interviews for their campaign, ‘A Thin Line,’ asking participants aged 14-24 about sexting. Here are some of the results:
- 13 percent admitted to having sent a naked picture of themselves to someone else. Of these people, 61 percent report to having been pressured into sending the picture at least once.
- Of those who have sent a picture:
- 59 percent sent the picture to a boyfriend or girlfriend.
- 24 percent sent the picture to someone they dated or hooked up with.
- 18 percent sent the picture to someone they liked and wanted to date or hook up with.
- Sexting is more common amongst young adults (19 percent) than teenagers (7 percent).
- 12 percent say they have felt pressured from someone to send a naked picture or video.
- 33 percent say they have received texts with sexual words, an increase from 2009 (29 percent).
- 21 percent say they have received pictures or videos with nudity and 18 percent of these people have shared these pictures and videos with other people.
- 13 percent have been shown a nude picture of someone else they know. Even though the person didn’t give permission for it to be shared.
- 6 percent have been shown a video of someone else they know performing sexual activities. Even though the person performing the activity did not give permission for it to be shared.
Why does this all matter? There are three main reasons why sexting is becoming an issue:
The sexts often end up being abused or end up in the wrong hands
As the statistics above show, sexts are often shared with those whom they are not intended to be. These pictures and videos can often become hot gossip amongst social circles and schools, causing intense embarrassment for those in the picture or video.
Sexting is, in fact, listed as one of the risks of social media by the American Academy of Pediatrics report Social Media and your Child’s Safety.
Sexts can often be abused for malicious purposes. One girl wrote that “sometimes people will get into fights with their exes, and so they will send the nudes as blackmail, but it’s usually when or after you’ve been dating someone.”
Sexting is illegal for those under 18
Teenagers under age 18 are considered minors when it comes to consensual sex and pornography, and thus are breaking the law when they send or forward sexual videos or pictures of themselves and others. While no sexting-specific laws are currently on the books, minors have been charged with breaking existing laws related to disorderly conduct, illegal use of a minor in pornography, and sexual abuse of children. Though these laws are relevant, new laws must be passed to fully address matters related to sexting amongst minors.
Sexts can reveal concerns about sexual beliefs
Sexting is more common amongst those who are already sexually active. Often boyfriends and girlfriends will sext each other once they have been sexually active with one another.
In other cases sexting can be an indicator of a want to become sexually active with another person in lieu of face-to-face contact. For shy teens, it can represent a safer means to display their feelings for each other. With the advances in technology, one does not need to have any actual contact with another person in order to have “sex.” One girl spoke of how she views a positive side to sexting, saying, “You can’t get pregnant from it, and you can’t transmit STDs. It’s a kind of safe sex”
Teens are using sexting to avoid the potential pitfalls of personal contact, including embarrassing and awkward moments. This will often result in sped up sexual activity amongst minors. Sexual experimentation has become easier than ever and too detached from how dating should be occurring.