Sexting/Sextortion

Sexting- When They Let it All Hang Out

Sexting is a growing and serious problem. It's when young people take nude pictures or video images of themselves posing in sexually provocative ways or engaging in real or simulated sex acts on their cell phones or webcams and then send them to others by cell phone or webcams. And it's not just the more sexually active teens and preteens. It's a more conservative group than we would expect who are taking and sharing them. And a much larger percentage of teens are receiving them from others.

About 20% of the teen girls Teenangels.org polled said they had taken a sexually-provocative, nude or sexually explicit cell phone picture or webcam shot of themselves and shared it with others (most often their boyfriends). 14% of the boys share these "private" images with others when they break up with their girlfriends. And 44% of the boys polled admitted to having seen at least one of these sexual images of a classmate. Five percent of the preteens polled said they had posed in and an equal percentage said they had received a sexually provocative or nude image of a classmate.

At least two suicides have been attributed to cyberbullying and harassment that resulted from a sexting image. Sadly, so many judge a teen or preteen harshly when they are cyberbullied based on a sexting incident, while they are sympathetic to other cyberbullying victims. Don't judge. There but for the grace of God go all of us. Even the more morale and conservative of young people might be caught in the moment and take it off for a boy they love, for friends at a slumber party while goofing around or when pressured or challenged. Many of us did stupid things when we were growing up. The difference is that the stupid things our teens and preteens do are now online forever. They can never escape their careless acts. What they share online stays online - FOREVER!

Sexting 101

Sexting is a growing and serious problem. It's when young people take nude pictures or video images of themselves posing in sexually provocative ways or engaging in real or simulated sex acts on their cell phones or webcams and then send them to others by cell phone or webcams. And it's not just the more sexually active teens and preteens. It's a more conservative group than we would expect who are taking and sharing them. And a much larger percentage of teens are receiving them from others.

About 20% of the teen girls Teenangels.org polled said they had taken a sexually-provocative, nude or sexually explicit cell phone picture or webcam shot of themselves and shared it with others (most often their boyfriends). 14% of the boys share these "private" images with others when they break up with their girlfriends. And 44% of the boys polled admitted to having seen at least one of these sexual images of a classmate. Five percent of the preteens polled said they had posed in and an equal percentage said they had received a sexually provocative or nude image of a classmate. At least two suicides have been attributed to cyberbullying and harassment that resulted from a sexting image.

Parry's Sexting Rules and the Law

Sexting is a difficult legal issue. Everyone who has heard of it has an opinion. But whether your stance is tough on crimes and minors or more realistic about teen behavior, sexting is problematic for three special reasons (beyond the obvious issue of society's desire to prevent nude images of minors or of minors engaged in sexual activities):

  1. Sexting images are often used to attack those featured in those images by cyberbullies. Those in the images are more vulnerable to bullying and cyberbullying.
  2. Given the nature of the images and the desire to keep parents from learning about them, many minors are "sextorted" by older teen or adult sexual predators into engaging in sexual acts or sending more images to keep their blackmailer quiet.
  3. The minors taking, sending or possessing the sexting images of other minors can be charged with child pornography and sexual exploitation crimes, such as the production, distribution and possession of child pornography, or endangerment of a minor.
Although "sexting" is a more recent trend, given the enhanced ability of cell phones and mobile devices to take and share images, the practice of taking nude or sexually provocative digital images and sharing them with others has been going on for more than 11 years. Parry Aftab worked on her first case of a teen voluntarily sharing a sexual video in 1998.