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Sexting. Sexting – What is it?. Generally defined as youth writing sexually explicit messages, taking sexually explicit photos of themselves or others in their peer group, and sending those photos and/or messages to their peers via digital media (cell phone, computers, etc.).

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Sexting what is it
Sexting – What is it?

Generally defined as youth writing sexually explicit messages, taking sexually explicitphotos of themselves or others in their peer group, and sending those photos and/or messages to their peers via digital media (cell phone, computers, etc.).

National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, Policy Statement on Sexting (September 21, 2009)

Sexting what it isn t
Sexting – What it isn’t

A minor sending a sexually explicit photograph of him/herself to an adult.

An adult sending a sexually explicit photograph to a minor.

A minor being blackmailed or coerced by an adult or a peer to make a sexually suggestive photo

National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, Policy Statement on Sexting (September 21, 2009)

Technology used for sexting
Technology Used For Sexting

Cell phones


Web cams

Digital cameras

Video game systems

Teens use of technology
Teens Use of Technology

Cell phone 82.9%

Sent text message 78.3%

Games 51.6%

Facebook 49.8%

Internet for schoolwork 49.4%

Email 45.9%

Used cell phone at school 45.4%

Instant messaging 40.8%

Took picture w/ cell 39.6%

Sameer Hinduja & Justin Patchin,, Cyberbullying Research Center (2010)

Teens use of technology cont
Teens Use of Technology (Cont.)

Online games 38.7%

MySpace 37.6%

Gone online w/ cell phone 31.6%

Chat rooms 17.1%

Webcam 14.5%

YouTube 11.1%

Twitter 6.0%

Virtual Worlds (for ex. Second Life) 5.9%

Percentage of teens who own a cell phone by age
Percentage of Teens Who Own A Cell Phone By Age:

Pew Internet & American Unit Project (Sept. 2009)

How prevalent is sexting
How Prevalent Is Sexting?

The Cox Communications Teen Online & Wireless Safety Survey, in partnership w/ NCMEC, surveyed 655 teens b/w ages of 13 to 18.7 years

  • 9 percent said they had sent sexts

  • 19 percent had received sexts

    Girls were twice as likely as boys to have sent sexts. Among those who sent messages, 60 percent sent them to a boyfriend or girlfriend; 11 percent sent them to someone they did not know.

How prevalent is sexting1
How Prevalent Is Sexting?

The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, in partnership with,

online survey with 653 teens aged 13 to 19 and 627 young adults aged 20 to 26.

When sexting was defined as sending a sexually suggestive message, 38 percent of the teens said they had sent sexts

When defined as sending nude or semi-nude photos, 19 percent of teens said they had sent sexts.

Among the young adults surveyed, 58 percent had sent sexually suggestive messages, and 32 percent had sent nude or semi-nude photos

How prevalent is sexting2
How Prevalent Is Sexting?

The MTV-Associated Press (AP) conducted an online survey of 1,247 teens & young adults between ages 14 and 24.

Among young adults (ages 18 to 24), 33 percent had been involved in some type of naked sexting

Among teens (ages 14 to 17), 10 percent had shared a naked image of themselves

How prevalent is sexting3
How Prevalent Is Sexting?

The Pew Internet and American Life Project, in partnership with the University of Michigan, conducted telephone surveys with 800 youths aged 12 to 17. The survey required parental consent to participate and it took more than 135,000 calls before finding 800 participants.

Only 4% of cell-owning teens ages 12-17 had sent sexually suggestive nude or nearly nude images or videos of themselves to someone else via text.

About 15% had received such images of someone they knew

Lenhart, A. (December 19, 2009) Teens and Sexting. Pew Internet and American Life Project.

Differences in the survey results
Differences In The Survey Results:

The higher prevalence indicated in the Cox survey may be attributable to the broad definition used for the term sexting.

In the MTV and the National Campaign surveys were conducted online and had older teens and young adults included

The Pew’s lower statistics might be attributable to the younger targeted age range and to the sample set used because two-thirds of the youth interviews were conducted via land lines.

In addition, the Pew’s study focused on images sent via text while the other surveys talked about sharing, posting or sending images without limiting the medium used.

Sexting gender age
Sexting, Gender & Age

The Pew survey revealed no difference in this practice related to gender: Girls and boys are equally as likely to have sent a suggestive picture to another person. The Cox survey, however, suggested that girls are more likely to send a sext.

The Pew survey as well as the other surveys suggest that older teens are the most likely to report having sent a sexually suggestive image via text with 8% of 17-year-olds having sent one, compared to 4% of those age 12.

Sexting adults do as i say not as i do
Sexting & AdultsDo as I say not as I do….

  • 6% have sent sexts

    • 13% of 18-29 have sent

    • 5% of 30-49 have sent

  • 15% have received

    • 31% of 18-29 have received

    • 17% of 30-49 have received sexts

  • Pew Internet & American Unit Project (Sept. 2009)

Reasons youth participate in sexting
Reasons Youth Participate In Sexting

Three main situations in which sexting occurs:

Exchange of images between two people who are in a relationship (e.g. as part of dating)

Exchanges between partners that are shared with others outside the relationship (with or without the consent of the minors depicted).

Exchanges between people who are not yet in a relationship, but at least one person hopes to be (e.g. flirting)

Lenhart, A. (December 19, 2009) Teens and Sexting. Pew Internet and American Life Project.

Who do youth send sexts to
Who Do Youth Send Sexts to?

Boyfriend / Girlfriend 60%

Someone I had a crush on 21%

Ex-boyfriend/ Ex-girlfriend 19%

Best friend 14%

Friends other than my/their best friend 18%

Someone I don’t know 11%

Classmates 4%

Someone else 14%

Decline to answer 3%

I don’t know 2%

*Teen Online & Wireless Safety Survey: Cyberbullying, Sexting and Parental Controls.  Cox Communications Teen Online and Wireless Safety Survey in Partnership with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, 2009

Sexting the net effect
Sexting & The Net Effect*

The internet does not cause the problems we’ve seen, but it does change it in the following ways:

Persistence and searchability




Invisible audiences & the blurring of public and private

*Anne Collier & Larry Magid of ConnectSafely, “Online Safety 3.0, Empowering & Protecting Youth.” (utilizing research conducted by dannah boyd in her doctoral dissertation, “Taken Out of Context: American Teen Sociality in Networked Publics”).

Sexting consequences
Sexting & Consequences

Creating a Digital Reputation

Emotional Consequences

Bullying / Harassment / Exploitation by kids

Exploitation by Adults

Criminal Prosecution

Sexting digital reputation
Sexting & Digital Reputation

If your image is in the sext:

Once an image is sent to another cellular phone or posted online, it cannot be retrieved. As a result, the digital age has changed what might have been a forgotten youthful indiscretion and turned it into a public, distributable and permanent part of a teen’s life.

If you forward a sext:

Creating an online reputation and contributing to negative digital citizenship.

Sexting digital reputation1
Sexting & Digital Reputation

Possible ramifications:

School discipline

Loss of scholarships

Prohibition from participating in sports / after-school activities

College admissions

Employment opportunities

How important is your digital reputation
How Important Is Your Digital Reputation?

Study sponsored by Microsoft

Survey of 1100 hiring managers in the U.S.

70% of U.S. employers stated that they have disqualified a candidate for a job based on what they found out about the applicant online.

BUT, only 7% of candidates think their online reputation has an impact on their job search

Emotional consequences
Emotional Consequences

Sexting can “profoundly affect the emotional and psychological development of a child. Trust is broken when an image is forwarded without the creator’s consent, such as when a boyfriend forwards images that are intended to be private.”

“Sexting Questions and Answers from NetSmartz,” 2009,

Minors depicted in these images are likely to experience depression, anxiety and other negative effects from the fact that the images will be circulating and out of their control forever.

Mary Graw Leary, “The Right and Wrong Responses to Sexting,” Speaking at the Witherspoon Institute, May 12, 2008,

Revenge porn
“Revenge Porn”

This term recently was added to the urban dictionary. It is defined as homemade pornography uploaded by an ex-girlfriend or ex-boyfriend after breaking up as a means of humiliating the ex or just for one’s own amusement.

Sexting bullying harassment and exploitation1
Sexting & Bullying / Harassment and Exploitation

Jessica Logan, an 18 year old Ohio teen, sent nude pictures of herself to her boyfriend. After they broke up, he forwarded the pictures to other high school girls. Jessica was harassed relentlessly. Ultimately, Jessica committed suicide.

Jorge Suichil (TX) recently was arrested and charged with child pornography. The 17 year old asked a 16 year old girl to send him a photo of her topless. The girl agreed. Later, the girl told police that Suichil demanded she send him a completely nude photo of herself or else he would pass the topless shot on to his friends’ cell phones. The girl told school officials, who called the police.

In Idaho, a 15 year old female high school student was charged with a misdemeanor offense of disseminating material harmful to a minor after she posed as a secret admirer online in order to trick another female into sending her nude pictures. She then forwarded the images to several others.

Case study
Case Study:

  • 18 years old from Wisconsin

  • Charged with making a bomb threats, sexual assault, possession of child pornography and five counts of child enticement.

  • Feb. 2010 -- Pled “no contest” to the sexual assault charges and was sentenced to 15 years.

  • Posed as a girl on facebook

  • Used the false identity to persuade 31 boys to send him nude pictures then used those pictures as blackmail for sexual acts.

Exploitation by adults
Exploitation by Adults

Sexted images created for one purpose can find their way onto the internet and be downloaded by adults looking for child pornography.

Law Enforcement officers are finding child pornography seizures now contain sexting photos “mixed in among hardcore child pornography.”

Ronan O’Connell, “Police Warn of Sexting Dangers,” The West Australian (Feb 8, 2010), sexting-danger/

Sexting prosecutions
Sexting Prosecutions

4 Possible Individuals to Prosecute:

The person depicted in the photo

The person who took the photo

The person (or people) who sent / forwarded the photo

The person (or people) who received the photo

National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, Policy Statement on Sexting (September 21, 2009)

Sexting prosecutions1
Sexting Prosecutions

Case of Philip Albert

18 year old whose relationship with a 16 year old girlfriend ended.

Angry at their break up, Albert sent naked pictures his former girlfriend to her friends and family.

Pled guilty to distributing child pornography. Sentenced to 5 years probation

Required to register as a sex offender.

Sexting sex offender registries
Sexting & Sex Offender Registries

In many states,  if a person is convicted of a crime against children, it automatically triggers registration to the sex offender registry. 

Currently, 38 states include juvenile sex offenders in their sex offender registries.

Most states allow public access to sex offender registries via the Internet and anyone with a computer can locate registered sex offenders in their neighborhoods. 

Legislative proposals
Legislative Proposals

At least 19 state legislatures have either passed legislation or have bills pending relating to sexting.

Goal generally is to ensure that there are consequences for sexting that punish and deter, but are not so severe that the teen is required to register as a sex offender.

Many state legislators also seem concerned about a minor having a permanent record (juvenile or criminal).

Methods used by legislators to address sexting
Methods Used By Legislators To Address Sexting

Modify criminal laws to create reduce child pornography offense to misdemeanor offenses when committed in the sexting context.

Exclusion from Sex Offender registry

Expungement of juvenile records

Creating an affirmative defense to a charge of CP

Some states, including NJ, have an educational component and/or diversionary program.

New jersey
New Jersey

Pending Legislation (House Bill A1561) to create a diversionary program for juveniles who are criminally charged for exchanging or posting sexual images.

To be eligible for diversion (1) the creator and subject of the photograph must have been juveniles when it was taken; and (2) the sexted image must have been created, exhibited or distributed without malicious intent.

New jersey pending legislation
New Jersey Pending Legislation

To be eligible for the diversionary program:

(1) the juvenile must not have previously been found delinquent or guilty of sexual assault, endangering the welfare of a child, etc.

(2) the juvenile was not aware that his/her actions could constitute and did not have the intent to commit a criminal offense;

(3) there is a likelihood that the juvenile’s offense is related to a condition or situation that would be conducive to change through participation in the educational program; and

(4) the juvenile would likely be deterred from engaging in similar conduct in the future by completing the program (i.e. the benefits to society in admitting the juvenile into this educational program outweigh the harm done to society by abandoning criminal prosecution)

School responses to sexting
School Responses to Sexting

Story of Ting Yi Oei

Sexting pa case
Sexting & PA case

PA school officials confiscated several cell phones from students containing photos of semi-nude minor female students

Feb. 2009, the DA sent letters to the parents of the three females depicted in the photos and approximately 17 students who had the images on their cell phones.

The letter stated that they would not file charges for child pornography if the children entered an education and counseling program.

Three females refused the deal and filed a TRO to prevent the DA from filing charges arguing, in part, that the images did not satisfy the definition of child pornography. Federal district court agreed and granted the TRO.

Subsequent lawsuit by one of the students resulted in a $33,000 settlement paid by the school system.

What can we do
What can we do?

Encourage Communication

Encourage think before you post

Explain digital reputation. Encourage kids to take charge of their digital reputation.

Try not to overreact.

Monitor for signs of depression

Explain how to be an UPSTANDER

Messages to send lessons to teach
Messages to Send & Lessons to Teach

Never take and/or post images of yourself that you wouldn’t want everyone (family, friends, teachers, employers, colleges, etc.) to see.

Think before you post or send an inappropriate image or text

Do not assume anything sent or posted is going to remain private.

Remember, anything sent or posted in cyberspace is irretrievable.

Do not give in to the pressure to do something that causes discomfort, even in cyberspace.

Nothing is truly anonymous.

Strategies for parents
Strategies for Parents

  • KEEP CURRENT with the technology your child uses.

  • KEEP COMMUNICATING with your teen about everything they experience through connected technologies.

  • KEEP CHECKING their cell phone and Internet activity. Review text messages and Internet histories. Let them know that you will keep checking because you want to help them protect their digital reputation.

Recommended reading
Recommended Reading

Dena T. Sacco, “Sexting: Youth Practices and Legal Implications,” The Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University (June 22, 2010).

Mary Leary, “Sexting or Self-Produced Child Pornography? The Dialogue Continues – Structured Prosecutorial Discretion within a Multidisciplinary Response,” Virginia Journal of Social Policy and the Law, Vol. 17, No. 3, Spring 2010.

Thank you questions email nancy@ikeepsafe org
Thank YouQuestions? Email [email protected]