A new study on sexting published in the April issue of Computers and Human Behavior found that sharing sexually explicit messages, videos or images through electronic means is on the rise among teens. The three researchers at University of New Hampshire and Boston University estimate that 14.8 percent of teenagers age 10-17 engage in this behavior with the highest rate being among older teens.
This area is one of emerging concern for parents, education professionals and law enforcement as kids increasingly interact with each other in the digital realm of phone texts, social networks or internet-based messaging.
The dark side of this is that there have been many incidents of teen suicide, notably a high school sophomore in 2013 who hung herself after nude photos of her drunk at a party circulated throughout her high school campus.
Laws on sexting
It is illegal in the United States for anyone under 18-years-old to engage in sexting. Kids cannot give consent or allow anyone to engage in this behavior. Exchanging texts even between two kids who are dating is considered child pornography. In perhaps of move that could indicate news laws across the country, Ohio is currently looking at a bill that raise the legal age of sexting to 19 years.
Other key findings of the study
The researchers collected data of 1,560 children across the country as well as their adult caregivers. Other findings include:
- 14 percent of teens thought sexting was okay or they were not sure
- Children between the ages of 10-12 were most likely to report sexting to parents or teachers
- 42 percent of girls and 36 percent of boys said they would report sexting
- 75 percent of girls and 66 percent of boys believed that they would get into trouble at school for sexting
- 66 percent of girls and 55 percent of boys believed sexting would affect their ability to get a job
These issues can impact a child or student’s future
The laws are intended to prevent sexting or protect those who have been exploited by sexting. However, issues of guilt and responsibility as well as individual rights of minors or young adults are also at issue if there is a dispute. It is advisable to treat the circumstances of a sexting as a potential crime and immediately contact an attorney knowledgeable in criminal defense. They can protect their clients to ensure that rights are protected.