News

Actions

Potential for child porn charges among problems stemming from prevalence of teen sexting

Potential for child porn charges among problems stemming from prevalence of teen sexting
Posted at 10:20 PM, Oct 19, 2014
and last updated 2014-10-20 00:20:06-04

SALT LAKE CITY -- A recent University of Utah study found nearly one in five students surveyed sent a sexually explicit image, or a sext, while in high school, and even more reported they had received such photos.

Doctor Donald Strassberg is a professor of psychology at the University of Utah, and he spoke about the prevalence of sexting among teens.

“Almost half of the boys said that while in high school, they received a naked picture of a girl,” he said.

The study surveyed 1,100 college students about their experiences with sexting while in high school. Sexting is defined for the purposes of the study as the sending or receiving of sexually explicit images via cell phone. Strassberg said about one-third of girls reported receiving such photos while in high school

Survey respondents reported they were less likely to send a photo than receive one. About 18 percent of girls and 20 percent of boys reported sending such a photo.

Strassberg said the discrepancy in the numbers of senders and receivers stems from the fact many sexting messages are forwarded—even without the consent of the original sender.

“These days with these pictures being digital, once that picture is out there, the person sending it, the person pictured, has lost all control over what may ever happen to that picture,” he said.

Strassberg said the most common reason for teens to engage in sexting was to give someone a "present" or in an attempt to establish a relationship. Adults who sext can open themselves up to embarrassment, but minors face more serious consequences, as they are participating in the production or dissemination of child pornography.

“You could be charged with a felony,” Strassberg said. “Sixteen-year-old girl sends her 17-year-old boy a picture of her breasts; they could both be charged with felonies involving child pornography."

National survey data indicate that about 90 percent of teens have cell phones, many of which are outfitted with cameras.

Strassberg said it is difficult to influence teen behaviors in general, and especially regarding sexting. He said more research is needed to understand teens` motives, among other consequences.

"Hopefully we will at least try, I think, to do the best we can to help our young men and women to appreciate what the risks are and to help them, hopefully, to make better decisions,” he said.

Strassberg said he conducted the study in large part as a wake-up call to parents and educators who may believe sexting is rare. He said nearly three-fourths of study’s participants attended high school in Utah.

Click here for more details from the study.