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Nearly 1 in 3 Older Teens Receive “Sexting” Messages

by The Kid's Doctor Staff

A new report shows that 30 percent of 17-year-olds who have cellphones say they have received “sexting” photos or video messages. Eight percent of 17-year-olds involved in the survey say they have sent sexually suggestive images.

Teens & Sexting

Teens & Sexting

Among teens ages 12 to 17 years old, 15 percent say they have received nude or nearly nude images of someone they know via text messaging on their cellphones, while four percent say they have sent such photos. Among 12- and 13-year olds, 6 percent say they have received “sext messages.”

“It’s an issue that teens grapple with and deal with in their lives, and one that deserves attention,” said Amanda Lenhart, the Pew Internet & American Life Project senior research specialist who worked on the “Teens and Sexting” report.

“In our focus groups, we heard that plenty of teens had experienced this, either by sending the suggestive images, receiving them or by encountering them second-hand on a passed-around cell phone, hearing about friends doing it, hearing about it in the hallway.”

Sexting is gaining national attention, with at least two teen suicides in the past 18 months associated with the problem, and lawmakers and prosecutors around the country grappling with how to handle such cases.

The Pew report, based on focus groups with 800 teens in Denver, Atlanta and New York, mirrors the findings of a recent poll by the Associated Press and MTV of more than 1,200 teens which concluded that more than a quarter of them have been involved in sexting in some form.

“The (cell) phone is such a vital part of these teens’ lives that it isn’t surprising that it’s a major source of content for them — both positive content and content that’s more worrisome,” Lenhart said.

In a 2004 survey of teens, Pew said, 18 percent of 12-year-olds had a cell phone, compared to 58 percent of 12-year-olds now. Five years ago, 64 percent of 17-year-olds had a cell phone, compared to 83 percent now. In addition, cell phones themselves have changed dramatically since 2004, with many of them now having Internet access.

Teens who pay their own cell phone bills are “more likely to send ’sexts,’ ” Pew said in the report, with 17 percent saying they have done so, compared to 3 percent of teens “who do not pay for, or only pay a portion of the cost” of their cell phone bills.

“Just 9 percent of teens who sent sexy images by text had parents who restricted the number of texts or other messages they could send; 28 percent of teens who didn’t send these texts had parents who limited their child’s texting,” the Pew report said.

“One younger high school boy told us that he never sends or receives sexually suggestive images via text because ‘my mom goes through my phone.’ However, another high school boy described how he password-protected images to keep others from viewing them.”

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