WiredSafety's Parents Page

Sexting and Your Preteen or Teen

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.

22% of the teen girls polled in a separate survey said that they regretted whatever they had recorded on their webcam and 71% use them in their bedroom. And older teens and young adults are even more at risk, with almost 40% of the teens over 18 and college students we polled said they had shared a nude or sexual image with their boyfriend or girlfriend online or by cell phone.

It's real and it's happening with teens and preteens worldwide. And it needs to stop. Taking and sharing nude pictures with someone you are dating isn't new. Generations before used Polaroid pictures and hand delivered them. But the scale of a sexting attack is beyond comprehension. The image can be viewed by tens of thousands of other teens, and be searchable forever. It can come up during a college recruiter's online search, a job application review or even by our children when we have them and they grown up and search for mommy or daddy online.

We are now seeing sextortion, where young people are blackmailed into performing sexual acts or taking more sexual images to avoid their blackmailer making the sexts public.

We have to teach our children that a sext is forever! To understand more about the legal issues of sexting, visit our Cyberlaw and Cybercrime Center. And to learn about Sextortion, visit WiredSafety's Child Protection Section. Want to reprint the Why Not to Sext public service poster designed by our Teenangels? Download it from the Wiredsafety Resource Center.