More than 50 percent of surveyed teens send sexual texts to each other, and 28 percent of them are photos, according to a new study from Drexel University.
“Under most existing laws, if our findings were extrapolated nationally, several million teens could be prosecuted for child pornography,” explained a 2012 study on the rise of sexting among minors.
Despite adults’ attempts over the last two years, teens have not suppressed their inner demons in favor of legal prudence (shocker). Many teens could be held liable for texts they sent as a minor or between their friends of different ages.
Part of the difficulty with figuring out the prevalence of sexting is because there’s no agreed upon definition. “Exactly what constitutes a sext is not entirely clear,” note the researchers from Drexel. While 50 percent may seem high, this was a self-reported survey of extremely incriminating questions, which means the actual numbers could be much higher.
Beyond the legal ramifications, The Atlantic’s Alexis Madrigal has a fascinating look into another academic study on the double standards for girls. Girls who send sexts are considered promiscuous, while those who don’t could be socially isolated.
“This indicates that sexting is a lose-lose proposition for girls; regardless of whether or not they sext, their behavior is evaluated in harsh and often sexist terms,” explain the University of Michigan’s Julia Lippman and Scott Campbell.
In the study, one 14-year-old claimed, “I have received some pics that include nudity. Girls will send them sometimes, not often. I don’t know why they think it’s a good idea, but I’m not going to stop it. … I like classy girls, so I don’t like them as much anymore. It makes them look slutty.”
Interestingly enough, the rise in disappearing photo apps, including a brand new Snapchat competitor from Facebook, may help shield some from the legal and social consequences of lasting pictures. But reputations will still be on the line, and that can cause all the psychological trauma of high school drama.
Surprisingly, today’s teens are the most sexually conservative on record, with plummeting teen pregnancies (which could be due to better information about and access to contraception, granted). But digital outlets are not exempt from teenage hormones, and all signs point to increasing prevalence of sexting.