Adolescent Sexuality in The United States - Legal Issues - Sexting

Sexting

More than one fifth of teens have sent sexually suggestive text messages or nude photographs of themselves online. Teens who photograph or film themselves or receive photos of others, known as sexting, can be charged with child pornography. Others who post the photos online could also be charged with child pornography and face prison time.

Sexting is linked to psychological distress among teens. Those involved in sexting are more likely to report a suicide attempt, and have twice the odds of reporting depressive symptoms as students who aren't involved in sexting. "For girls who send the sexts... there is a disillusionment and a sense of betrayal when it's posted everywhere. When it gets forwarded to multiple boys at multiple schools and also other girls ... a girl starts getting called names and her reputation is ruined," according to Dr. Jill Murray.

Boys who are victims of sexually predatory teenage girls can also be devastated. Sexually predatory girls will ask a boy, particularly a sexually naive boy, for photos, and "he's sort of flattered and he feels like a big guy and then she sends them around." It can cause lasting harm.

Often girls who take racy photos of themselves "want to be admired, want someone to want them," according to Parry Aftab, an Internet privacy and security lawyer and volunteer for WiredSafety. "A lot of them are lonely and starved for attention. A lot of girls think they have no choice but to pose in this way. And then there are the thrill seekers who do it because it's edgy and cool."

Experts say that sexting poses a serious problem, partly because teens do not understand that the images are permanent and can be spread quickly. “It does not click that what they’re doing is destructive, let alone illegal.” “Once they are out there, it spreads like a virus,” police say.

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