While the title of this post is “More on teen sexting statistics”, it could as easily be called, “Why you should talk to your kids about sexting now.”
When parents fret about teen sexting, or when stories involving teen sexting (and the police) hit the mainstream media, the issue at hand is often the act of sending nude selfies to a significant other. As such, it may be tempting for parents to put off the talk about sexting until the teen is actually dating, or close to it. That could be a mistake.
The definition of sexting is actually quite broad: “the sending of sexually explicit messages or images by cell phone”. The breadth of the definition is significant because while most parents correctly assume that it is unlikely their pre teen is sending explicit selfies to anyone, some form of gateway behavior might be taking place. You might think of it as digital flirting. Our message here – it is a good idea to start talking about sexting well before it might be taking place.
On to the teens: According to sexting research from the University of Texas, in which the researchers interviewed 948 students between the ages of 14 and 19, (the data is three years old but very comprehensive) actual teen behavior shakes out as follows:
- 28% of teens reported having sent explicit pictures of themselves via text or email, evenly split between males and females
- 68% of girls had been asked to send a sext, vs. 42% for boys
- 46% of boys admitted to having asked a girl to send a sext, vs. 21% of girls
- 27% of girls were “bothered greatly” by such requests, vs. 3% of boys
- The peak age for being asked to send a nude selfie is between 16 and 17
As of three years ago, it was not unlikely for the average teen to have engaged in sexting, or at least have been propositioned, and yes, peer pressure from the opposite sex can be at play. Given the rise of smartphones, the numbers are probably higher today.
What about the younger kids?
New research from the Internet Watch Foundation and Microsoft conducted in the second half of 2014 and released this month examined “youth-produced sexual content”, and looked at 3,803 examples of explicit photos that had made their way online.
- 17.5% of content depicted children aged 15 years or younger
- 14% of the content featured children 13 or younger
- 7% of the content featured children 10 or younger
- 93% of the content depicting children aged 15 or younger featured girls
While it is probably not happening to your tween, forewarned is forearmed. Start early. We recommend that before a child has unrestricted access to a smartphone or computer, parents have a serious talk about the risks of sexting, and repeat that talk often.
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