Your Teens are Sexting: What You Need to Know

Sending photos may seem like fun in the moment, but the consequences could be ghastly.
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Worried about what your teens are doing on their cell phones? Well, according to the results of a study published online on June 7 in the Archives of Sexual Behavior, you have reason for concern. We thought that approximately 13% of high school students engaged in sexting -- sending sexually explicit photos to others via cell phone -- but according to this new study, the percentage is higher and is now reported to be as high as 20%.

The results of the University of Utah study that surveyed 600 students between the ages of 14 and 18 at a private high school in the U.S. found the following results:

1. Approximately 20% of the high schoolers (18% of the males and 17% of the females) reported having sent a sexually explicit image via cell phone.

2. While 50% of the males reported receiving a sext, 31% of the females reported receiving a sext. Does this mean that females are more likely to send sexts or that both males and females alike are more likely to send sexts to males? I guess we'll need more data in order to answer this interesting question.

3. The photos sent weren't necessarily photos of the sender.

4. Approximately 25% of the students who received a sexually explicit picture reported forwarding it to others.

5. Approximately 33% of the high schoolers who sent a sexually explicit photo were aware that they could face serious legal and other consequences if caught. This finding is particularly concerning. Even though, sexting laws vary from state to state those sending or receiving nude photos of someone under the age of 18 could potentially face charges such as possessing or distributing child pornography.

Things have certainly changed since I was in high school. Yes, back then my friends and I used to doodle and draw pictures of what we thought our teachers and male peers looked like naked. Thank goodness these photos could not go viral to thousands of others within seconds! I can only imagine the humiliation that I would feel if my daughter was able to access those pictures on her phone or computer. Yikes!

That being said, we must continue to educate our kids and let them know that there are no quick remedies like anti-viral medications for messages that spread like wildfire. Once messages are sent, they are permanently in the hands (and on the screens) of others. While we are talking to our kids, we have the task of educating them about sexting laws. Sending photos may seem like fun in the moment, but the consequences could be ghastly.

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