Sunday, January 8, 2012

Youth Sexting: A National Study

The Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics published a national study on youth sexting in the January 2012 edition. The study showed that estimates of youth involved sexting vary considerably -- depending on what type of activities are included in the definition of sexting. The number of youth who have created or sent images that constitute a violation of current child pornography laws (i.e., images of nude or nearly nude children or youth engaged in sex acts) is very low at one percent.

These results indicate that sexting involving sexually explicit content is far from a normative type of behavior for youth.  This means that sexting data, like data on cyber bullying and cyber predators, is often distorted by the media and this distortion can lead to responses to youth sexting that are not aligned with the reality of youth behavior. What is of the utmost importance is to develop a clear understanding of the reasons for youth sexting on a case by case basis so that instances where conflict and malice are involved can be addressed immediately. The identification of this type of behavior can only happen if youth believe they can safely go to an adult and explain that an incident of sexting was hurtful, destructive, coercive, etc. Monitoring phones and computers for sexting activity by adults isn't nearly as helpful and efffective as having an open line of face-to-face communication between a parent and a child/teen.

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