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Sexting becoming a fad among teens: survey

Older teens are more likely to engage in sexting, as 8 percent of 17-year-olds have sent sexually suggestive messages and 30 percent have received them

New York, December 16 -- Cell phone usage is common among teenagers and almost all of them indulge in texting. But are you actually aware of the sexting phenomenon that has become a latest fad among teens?

According to the study named ‘Teens and Sexting’ conducted by Pew Research Center, sending sexually suggestive nude or nearly nude images to one another through text messaging, called sexting, is a familiar phenomenon among teenagers.

Amanda Lenhart, a senior research specialist, conducted a nationally representative survey among teenagers as a part of the Pew Internet & American Life Project.

The survey was conducted from June 26 to Sept. 24 in three U.S. states with the participation of 800 teenagers in the age group 12 to 17.

Older teens more likely to sext
As per the findings of the study, 4 percent of the teens owning a cell phone said that they have sent nude or nearly nude pictures of themselves via text messaging. 15 percent of the teens have received such messages on their cell phones.

Further, the older teens are more likely to engage in sexting, as 8 percent of 17-year-olds have sent sexually suggestive messages and 30 percent have received them.

Also, teens that pay their own cell phone-related expenses are more likely to indulge in such activity. Seventeen percent of teens who foot their own bill indulge in sexting compared to 3 percent who do not pay their own bills.

The study has also revealed three possible scenarios of sexting. In first case, messages are exchanged between partners who are in a relationship. In other cases, messages are shared with others outside the relationship. In the third case, messages are exchanged between partners who are not in a relationship, but one of them hopes to be.

Cell phone usage consistently growing
Apart from this, it has also been observed that cell phones are increasingly becoming a part of teens’ lives. The age at which the teenagers are acquiring cell phones is consistently growing younger.

According to the Pew’s survey findings in 2004, only 18 percent of the 12-year-olds owned a cell phone. In 2009, 58 percent possess a cell phone.

Further, 83 percent of the teens aged 17 own cell phone compared to 64 percent in 2004.

Incidents of sexting
Since texting has become a centerpiece in a teen’s social life, parents, educators, law enforcement agencies have increasingly raised concerns over the use of cell phones for sexual interaction and exploration.

An incident of sexting unfolded in Pennsylvania earlier this year, where six teens were charged with sexting. A 14-year-old girl and two 15-year-old girls were caught sending naked pictures of themselves to their 15, 16, and 17-year-old boyfriends.

Another notable incident of sexting occurred in Florida, where 18-year-old Philip Alpert was convicted of sending naked pictures of his girlfriend to family and friends following an argument. Alpert is now listed as a registered sex offender for the next 25 years.

Similar incidents have occurred in Virginia, Massachusetts, Ohio, and several other states.

How to stop sexting?
There is no way yet to put an end to sexting entirely, but intervention by parents can help curb this activity.

Teens whose parents go through the contents on their cell phone do not or are less likely to indulge in a sexting activity.

Apart from this, legislatures in many states have come up with laws to deal with the issue. Though laws vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, they are likely to curb sexting to a great extent, if not entirely.