Teen Sexting Statistics – What Parents Need to Know

Teen sexting is real, but your teen isn’t doing it. We get it.

teen-cell-phoneWhen teen sexting isn’t in the news, parents tend not to think much about it. When it is in the news (there have been two high profile cases in New Jersey this month) it’s usually because some teens get caught at school with inappropriate photos, or those pictures show up online, It’s a very hot topic, since this is happening more and more often.

Let’s take a look at some recent teen sexting statistics culled from multiple sources, and boil them down to what parents need to know.

  • 39% of teens have engaged in sexting
  • Half of teens who have sexted have sent nude or semi-nude photos or video
  • 86% of teens who have sexted say they haven’t been caught
  • More teens (48%) have received a sext message than sent one (39%)
  • 17% of teens who have received a sext message have shared it with or sent it to others
  • 15% of teens involved in sexting have sent a suggestive message to someone that haven’t met in person

Some data from UKnowKids and DoSomething.org

As a parent you might be thinking that since only 20% of teens have actually sent nude photos, you’re probably in the clear. Not so fast.

The above statistics are self-reported by teens surveyed or interviewed. 20% of teens admit to having sent nudes to someone. The real number is probably higher, possibly much higher. If you were a teen who sent nude pictures, or worse yet, shared someone else’s, would you admit it?

As we see with our clients, when teen nude pics show up online, it is always a surprise, especially for the parents.

Why are teens doing it?

In our opinion, it either comes down to peer pressure, a misguided attempt at being more popular or seeming grown up, or some combination of both. The peer pressure could come from a boyfriend, girlfriend or crush, or a sense that “everyone else is doing it”. Access to technology, specifically smartphones and social media, are making flirtatious or impulsive images easier than ever to share, by a wide margin.

What’s the risk if your teen is caught sending, posting or possessing explicit images?

  • Embarrassment
  • School punishment
  • Child pornography charges
  • There is a permanent internet record

Talk to your kids, as soon as they have a cell phone or other connected device, about not sending or posting sexually suggestive messages or content. The statistics above show that at least 17% of private pictures are shared. Even if you’re sure your teens are not doing it, talk to them about the risks. Make sure they know that you know that this type of thing is happening far too often. Even when it isn’t in the news, keep sexting and the risks of sexting front of mind with your teen.


Contact ThirdParent any time for help and resources for monitoring child and teen internet activity and for a confidential report on your child’s internet activity.

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