Actually the behavior isn’t quite as risky as it might sound, although parents may still find it hyperventilation-worthy. The Australian Institute of Criminology surveyed 1,200 teens and found that while 50% had sexted in the last year, and 40% had sent a sext to more than one recipient in that time, only 15% of teen boys and 10% of teen girls had sent sexts to more than five people, displaying admirable restraint. And just 6% have accidentally sent a text to the wrong person.
The psychological dynamics behind sexting also aren’t as toxic as parents may imagine. Only 13% of girls who sexted said they felt pressured into doing so, with most citing more positive reasons for sharing reveal images via mobile. Top reasons cited by teen girls for sexting were “to be fun and flirty,” “to give a sexy present,” and “to feel confident and sexy.”
Meanwhile the top reasons cited by teen boys were, again “to be fun and flirty,” “because they received one,” and “to give a sexy present.” All I can say is, clearly, “flirty” means something different than when I was a teen.
Researchers from the Australian Institute of Criminology pointed out that there is a big disconnect between the actual phenomenon of sexting and the state of the laws regarding explicit images. Many of the teens sending explicit images of themselves are minors, which technically makes it child pornography, opening recipients up to prosecution even when they are minors too and the sharing is consensual. In the last four years Australian police have charged 120 people under the age of 21 with crimes relating to sexting, with maximum penalties of up to 15 years in prison. Australian legislators are currently reviewing the laws in light of recent trends.
However there is obviously still a dark side to sexting, including the 13% of girls who feel coerced into sending sexual images of themselves, as well as the fact that images sent to a trusted individual can later end up on “revenge porn” sites after a relationship ends. Teenage girls also complained about the scourge of unsolicited “dick pics” sent by male peers.
Ah, ain’t the 21st century grand?