Imagine this: your child or student is chatting with some friends on their phone, maybe they’re scrolling through some social media posts, and suddenly their phone buzzes with a message from their school crush. “Hey bb,” it reads. “Send me some nudes? ;)”
How prevalent is sexting?
Requests of this type are not only increasingly happening but increasingly responded to—the numbers of youth “sexting” or sending and receiving “nudes” are growing. In 2018, the Journal of the American Medical Association for Pediatrics (JAMA Pediatrics) conducted a review of 39 academic studies and a meta-analysison the issue of youth sexting. The results showed that, on average, nearly 15% of minors were sending sexts, while over 25% were receiving them. That’s nearly 1 in 6 who are sending sexts and over 1 in 4 receiving them.
When it comes to nonconsensual sexting, over 8% of minors had their nudes forwarded and shared without their consent, and 12% admitted to forwarding them without asking for consent. Researchers noted that due to limitations in their sampling methods and in the research itself, these figures are likely underestimating the true numbers among youth; what we do know is that the number of individuals sexting is growing, likely underpinned by an increase in smartphone access and that they continue to grow as young people get older.
This trend maps with other research. Thorn, a leading organization in advocating against the sexual exploitation of children, revealed in its 2020 report on Youth Attitudes and Experiences that sexting is becoming viewed as a “normal” activity among peers.Among 13-17-year-olds, they found that 34% agreed it was normal for kids to share their own nudes. Among those ages 9-12, 21% also agreed sexting was normal; that’s an increase of over 60% from the previous year.
Is youth sexting a problem?
So…is the increasing prevalence of sexting among minors a cause for concern? The research unanimously concludes: yes.
The problematic impacts of youth sexting can be categorized into two main areas: increased associated risks and potential legal implications.
Increased associated risks of sending nudes
Current literature on youth sexting shows that sexting is a predictor of sexual behaviors, including having multiple sexual partners, lack of contraception use, delinquent behavior, internalizing problems, and substance use.It is also associated with “other health outcomes and risky behaviors.” This can be explained, at least in part, by the fact that “coercion plays a critical role (in youth sexting), exponentially increasing the risk to the victim.” That is, peer pressure by friends or schoolmates can lead kids to send sexually explicit content of themselves or share it with others.
What are some of the other increased risk outcomes? Especially in nonconsensual cases, sexting can lead to an increased risk of “harassment by peers, cyberbullying, or blackmailing.”This is no minor issue; in a 2017 survey published in JAMA Pediatrics, results from four large school districts showed that indicators for interpersonal violence, mental health, and suicidality were “significantly associated with having a sexual photo shared without permission.”
More generally, research has found it can “unintentionally isolate young people”and can entail “emotional distress and reputational damage.” Stories like that of Serena, who dealt with substance abuse, suicide attempts, and other hardships as a result of sharing nudes when she was 14, highlight the extreme impact sexting can have.
Potential legal implications
Youth sexting can not only hurt individuals’ health and foster other risky sexual behaviors. In fact, youth can face some weighty legal implications by just clicking “send.”
By law, “revenge porn” laws state that it is a criminal offense to share intimate images of a person without the person’s consent. This becomes even more serious when we consider content featuring minors. It is considered a federal offense to “produce, distribute, import, receive, or possess” CSEM (Child Sexual Explicit Material), commonly referred to as child pornography. This includes “any visual depiction of sexually explicit conduct involving a minor (persons less than 18 years old).”
Now consider all of the kids and teens participating in sexting. This issue quickly becomes problematic. Though these laws are designed to penalize adults taking advantage of minors, minors are essentially normalizing the creation and distribution of CSEM- and may also be liable for it.
What can be done?
Parents, policymakers, and school administrators need to stay informed about how this increasing trend in youth sexting may be affecting their students’ health and overall well-being. Students are increasingly consuming and sending pornography at school. Due to the negative impacts, both legally and behaviorally, it is key to stay abreast and be able to respond to these potential challenges.
Education surrounding the impacts of sexting and pornography is crucial in informing youth on the serious implications of sending, receiving, and sharing “nudes.” As sexting becomes increasingly normalized and even often expected, youth need to be made aware of the dangers. Fight the New Drug’s presentation program is specifically designed for students, parents, and educators to spark a healthy conversation on the realities of pornography and the dangers of sexting.
Book a youth presentation at your school
Research suggests that school staff and administrators see pornography as a serious issue that affects their school’s cultural climate surrounding sexual violence and that education programs on porn help them feel more confident in addressing the issue and preventing sexual harassment.
Fight the New Drug’s age-appropriate and engaging presentations highlight research from respected academic institutions that demonstrates the significant impacts of porn consumption on individuals, relationships, and society. We take a three-dimensional approach to raising awareness on the harmful effects of pornography in society, so in addition to creating tools and resources for our global supporter base to share, we also love getting face-to-face with people in their schools and cities to provide research-backed information on this important issue.
As a non-legislative and non-religious organization, our goal is to ensure we deliver age-appropriate, key information backed by science and personal accounts to each audience so they are equipped to make informed decisions regarding pornography. All of our tailored presentations, whether it’s a school, community, parent, or conference presentation, will provide attendees with comprehensive, age-relevant information about:
- How porn impacts the brain
- How porn can harm relationships
- How porn affects society
- Healthy conversations about porn
- Free resources—educational and recovery
We offer presentations customized for each audience, aligning with our mission as a non-religious and non-legislative organization educating with science, facts, and personal accounts. We can provide engaging, empowering, and educational presentations for these types of audiences:
- Middle School/Junior High
- High School
We empower your students to make educated decisions to better equip them to love themselves, have healthy relationships, and make a positive difference in the world.
What are you waiting for? Click here to learn more and book us today.