MIAMI (CBSMiami/AP) – Good news for parents of teenagers.
A new research study, featured in the upcoming journal Pediatrics, shows that sexting among teens is a lot less common than many people think.
Only 1 percent of kids aged 10 to 17 have shared images of themselves or others that involve explicit nudity, a nationally representative study found. Roughly the same number said they’d shared suggestive but less graphic photos; while 7 percent said they’d received either type of picture.
The study only polled teenagers, not young adults. Young adults had shown considerably higher sexting rates in previous studies.
Previous reports said as many as 1 in 5 young people, or 20 percent, have participated in sexting. But some surveys included older teens and people in their early 20s. And some used definitions of sexting that included racy text messages without photos, or images “no more revealing than what someone might see at a beach,” authors of the new study said.
The results show that teen sexting isn’t rampant, usually isn’t malicious, and is generally not something parents should panic over, said lead author Kimberly Mitchell, a research assistant psychology professor at the University of New Hampshire.
Dr. Victor Strasburger, an adolescent medicine expert at the University of New Mexico, said parents, schools and law enforcement authorities “need to understand that teenagers are neurologically programmed to do dumb things.”
Their brains aren’t mature enough to fully realize the consequences of their actions, including sexting, until early adulthood, he said.
Instead of prosecution, he said, there should be more emphasis on teaching teens to be responsible with new technology. Kids need to be told “that when you put things online and even when you send them via cellphone, they’re potentially there forever.”
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