Teen Sexting

Most teens today are comfortable with documenting their lives online through social media and texting. Posting photos, updating their status messages and being a click away from friends are the new normal for teens.  This openness on-line also creates an environment where teens can make impulsive decisions that can come back to haunt them. One example of this has been in the news a lot lately: sexting.

Researchers at the University of Texas Medical Branch found that teens who “sext” may be more likely to engage in sexual behaviors. Listed are some of the findings:

  • 28% of teens admitted to having sent a sext.
  • 76.2% of teens who were propositioned to sext admitted to having had sexual intercourse.
  • Girls were asked to send a sext (68%) more often than boys (42%).
  • The peak age of sexting is around 16 and 17 years of age.
  • Sexting seems to decline in individuals 18 and older.

 STAR Guides Wilderness - Teen Sexting

Another significant problem associated with sexting is that explicit images and material can be very easily and widely circulated, over which the creator has no control. Research by the Internet Watch Foundation concluded that 88% of self-made explicit images are “stolen” from their original upload location, like social networking sites, and are available on other websites, such as porn sites. This practice commonly referred to as “sextortion” includes images from one’s social networking and email accounts being stolen. McAfee, the anti-software company, did its own study and found that 60% of sexts get leaked.

It’s common among teens for a relationship to end and what was once confidential between partners to become electronically publicized after the break up.  Failed relationships in which sexting happened can result in irreversible damage as images that were initially intended for the boyfriend/girlfriend are posted and distributed on-line as a means of retaliation. These pictures may be shared to a large audience on wireless networks or the internet, causing psychological, social, cultural, and legal problems.  These images of young teens may end up in the hands of predators or on a porn site.  Often, these images can be used as blackmail, or even shared while still in a relationship.

STAR Guides Wilderness - Teen Sexting 2


  • 22% of teen girls and 20% of teen boys have sent nude or seminude photos of themselves over the Internet or their phones.
  • 22% of teens admit that technology makes them personally more forward and aggressive.
  • 38% of teens say exchanging sexy content makes dating or hooking up with others more likely.
  • 29% of teens believe those exchanging sexy content are “expected” to date or hook up.

(These statistics come from CosmoGirl and the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, 2009.)

When sexting behaviors begin to pose a threat of harm to oneself or others or when a teen is unwilling to abide by parental guidelines placed on their use of electronics because of sexting relating issues, then treatment is recommended.

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