Twenty percent of high school students have sent a sexually explicit image of themselves and around twice that many have received sexually explicit images, according to a new study in the journal Archives of Sexual Behavior.
Study author Donald Strassberg, from the University of Utah, based his findings on more than 600 students recruited from a private high school in the southwest US. The students completed a questionnaire about their experiences of sexting (the transfer of sexually explicit pictures via cell phones) and their understanding of what consequences they believed were associated with being caught sexting.
Nearly 20 percent of the students, some as young as 14, said they had sent a sexually explicit image of themselves via cell phone, and nearly twice as many said that they had received a sexually explicit picture. Of those receiving such a picture, over 25 percent indicated that they had forwarded it to others.
Interestingly, of those who had sent a sexually explicit picture, over a third had done so despite knowing that there could be serious legal and other consequences if they got caught.
Strassberg warned that in many US states, those sending or receiving nude pictures of individuals under 18 risk charges as serious as possession or distribution of child pornography, carrying penalties that include being listed on a sex offender register. In addition, for those featured in the photos, there may be serious psychological consequences. "These results argue for educational efforts such as cell phone safety assemblies, awareness days, integration into class curriculum and teacher training, designed to raise awareness about the potential consequences of sexting among young people," he concluded.
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Source: Archives of Sexual Behavior