Thursday, December 30, 2010

Stats on Teens and Sexting

In a nationally representative survey of those ages 12 to 17 conducted on landline and cell phones, the Pew Research Center's Internet and American Life Project found the following

4% of cell owning teens ages 12 to 17 say they had sent sexually suggestive nude or nearly nude images of themselves to someone else via text messaging.

15% of cell owning teens ages 12 to 17 say they have received sexually suggestive nude or nearly nude images of someone they know by text messaging board their cell phone.

Older teens are much more likely to send and receive these images; 8% of 17-year-olds with cell phones had sent a sexually provocative image by text and 30% have received a nude or nearly nude image on their phone.

The teens who pay their own phone bills are more likely to send "sexts" --17% of teens who pay for all of the cost associated with their cell phones send sexually suggestive images via text. Only 3% of teens who do not pay for or only pay for a portion of the cost of cell phone send these messages.

The focus groups in this poll revealed there are three main scenarios for sexting: 1) exchange of images solely between two romantic partners; 2) exchanges between partners that are shared with others outside of their romantic relationship, and 3)exchanges between people who are not yet interrelationship, but where at least one of the participants hopes to be.

Teens who received sexually suggestive images on their cell phones are more likely to say they use the phone to entertain themselves when bored.

Parental role? Understanding that what seems to be a necessity of life, the "smart phone," can be a source of sexual acting out. Parents who do not check their child/teen's text messages or other electronic communication, run the risk of sexual content being transmitted to and from friends, acquaintances, and strangers.

It is therefore crucial for parents to decide if they are going to take active steps to determine how their teen's smart phone is being used. Relying on the good judgment of teen may be a serious mistake. Intruding into a teen's private communication certainly is problematic, as teens will resist and argue, perhaps rightly, that there communications are confidential or private. Parents must thus decide if they are willing to confront this issue directly and by doing so, incur conflict and debate with their teen. The alternative, which is to allow the teen to utilize their smart phone without any supervision, runs the serious risk of the transmission of sexual images and content.

Every family must make their own and determinations regarding the use of smart phones and texting. One alternative is to provide a teen with a phone that does not have texting or Internet capabilities.

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