Don’t worry dad.
Your teen is probably not sexting, according to new reports from the University of New Hampshire.
Two studies published in the journal Pediatrics found the reports teens are sexting – sending sexually explicit text messages – might be overblown.
The first study from the UNH Crimes Against Children Research Center found only a small percentage of youths send nude pictures of themselves that would qualify as child pornography. The study surveyed 1,560 kids between ages 10 and 17 who use the Internet about their experiences with sexting – appearing in, creating or receiving sexual images or videos through cell phones or the Internet. The study found only 2.5 percent of the youths surveyed participated in sexting in the last year, 1 percent involved images that violated child pornography laws.
“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.
The second study found that in most sexting cases investigated by the police, no juveniles were arrested. There was an arrest in 36 percent of the cases where teens were either being blackmailed or harassed by other youths because of the photos. The study was based on a national sampling of 675 sexting cases.
In both studies, 90 percent of teens said the images they sent did not go beyond the intended recipient.
But the 10 percent of cases where the pictures do get leaked out can be extraordinarily damaging to teens and their families.
In 2007, a 14-year-old girls sexually explicit photos that were placed in a private file on the image-sharing website, Photobucket.com, were leaked out. Now four years later, 18-year-old Angie Varona remains an Internet sensation for her adult curves.
In an interview with ABC News in November, Varona said her image has ended up on hundreds of sites – including jailbait.com, and a Google search of her name turns up more than 600,000 original search items.
She said the decision to take those racy photos for her then-boyfriend, was the worst decision she ever made and has ruined her life.
In another case, the district attorney in a Massachusetts town investigated a sexting case where an eighth grade boy sold nude photos of his girlfriend that she sent to him via text message The boy sold the photos to classmates for $5 apiece.