STUDY: More teens admit to ‘sexting’

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TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) –  Up to 33 percent of teens have admitted to sexting or sending naked, partially naked, or sexually suggestive photos and messages, according to the Massachusetts Aggression Reduction Center (MARC), which studies children’s use of social media and digital technology.

Dr. Kristopher Kaliebe, a child psychiatrist says the upward trend in teens who sext is largely a reflection of what young people see online and on television.

“That’s a large component of it,” says Kaliebe. “We have all this sexualized material everywhere, especially on TV and the internet.”

What concerns Dr. Kaliebe most is what he calls “pressured sexting,” or young people complying with requests for sexually suggestive messages.

In a December study of sexting among 12 to 18-year-old girls, Sara E. Thomas of Northwestern University analyzed 462 stories posted to an anonymous platform online.  Thomas reports that most of the girls felt pressured to comply with requests to send naked photos of themselves to boys who demanded them.

Examples of those posts include:

“everytime (sic) i try talking to a new guy, it starts off with the cute text then it goes on to the sexy pictures.”

“I sent a picture too (sic) a boy i really liked. He asked for it and I was hoping maybe he would like me if I sent it too (sic) him.”

Most sexting isn’t detected by parents, but when it is, the discovery can be devastating.

“This one father, in particular, wept so hard and he thought he was a failure because he just could not believe his 12-year-old daughter would be sending out inappropriate naked pictures of herself,” says Mike Harris, a Child Internet Sex Crimes Investigator.

According to MARC, teens who don’t sext are more aware of their values about sharing nudity, and more in touch with their own feelings of discomfort, and parents are encouraged to focus on teaching children those things.

Additionally, Dr. Kaliebe suggests a broader stance to discourage sexting among teens.

He says, “In some ways, we need some social disapproval, and to push back a little bit against that being OK.”

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