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“Send Nudes”: Sexting is the New Normal for Students Everywhere, Research Finds

About 12% of teens have forwarded a sext without consent—sending sexually explicit material on without asking permission of those involved.

The research is out: sexting is in. Almost 27% of teens are receiving sexts and almost 15% are sending them, according to findings in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) Pediatrics.

But that’s only the start. Those reported stats probably on the low end of the spectrum, given the reality of the situation and the number of messages we receive on the regular about how “sending nudes” is the common form of flirting with students as young as pre-teens.

“This is a pressing concern for most parents, as well as educators, who are navigating conversations around sexual behavior and digital health and citizenship with teens,” said lead researcher Sheri Madigan, an assistant professor in the Department of Psychology at the University of Calgary.

Related: 7 Things You Can Do If You’re a Victim of Deepfakes or Revenge Porn

“We knew teens were sexting, but we didn’t know how many,” Madigan said. “Getting an accurate sense of how often sexting is happening is helpful for parents, health care professionals, educators, etc., who are having to talk to kids about this behavior.”

To get a handle on how many teenagers sext, Madigan and her team looked at results from 110,380 young people in 39 different studies about sexting. These studies were conducted all over the world, including the United States, the Netherlands, Belgium, South Africa, and Czech Republic among others, reports Yahoo! News.

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As shocking as it may be to adults that so many teens are sexting, it’s not the part of the study that may cause the most concern. According to one meta-analysis on the topic, 12% of teens have forwarded a sext without consent—sending sexually explicit material on without asking permission of those involved, and 8.4% had one of their own sexts forwarded without their consent.Madigan, S., Ly, A., Rash, C. L., Van Ouytsel, J., & Temple, J. R. (2018). Prevalence of multiple forms of sexting behavior among youth: A systematic review and meta-analysis. JAMA Pediatrics, 172(4), 327-335. doi:10.1001/jamapediatrics.2017.5314Copy  (Again, these reported numbers only scratch the surface of what’s happening.)

The researchers admit that more studies are needed in this area, but this information, they say, should lead to privacy legislation on sexting. Madigan also noted that “non-consensual or coerced sexting (just like nonconsensual or coerced sex) is linked to poor psychological health.”

Related: The Rising Problem of Teens Sending Nudes

With 1 in 7 teens sending sexts and 1 in 4 teens receiving sexts, Madigan advises parents to “be proactive, not reactive, about sexting, and digital citizenship and health more broadly… Have open conversations early and often, not just when concerns surface,” she said. We agree.

This Is A Huge Problem

We can’t even begin to say how much of a problem sexting is. Whether it’s on Snapchat, Instagram DM’s, Facebook messenger, or regular ‘ol iMessaging and texting, sexting seems to be everywhere. And we totally get it—there’s nothing more exciting than getting noticed by a crush. But what if the cost of getting noticed is more than you expected?

Allow us to explain why sexting isn’t a good idea, especially if you’re not 18 yet.

– Sexting can be considered child porn. And that’s bad news for everyone involved.

By law, minors (anyone under 18) who are caught sending, possessing, or distributing (i.e. sharing with friends) nude pictures, can face major criminal charges. Those are some serious, life-changing problems for a split second decision like pressing ‘send.‘ 

Related: Today’s Teens are Distributing Child Porn of Themselves Without Knowing It

In too many cases, a situation where nudes are being asked for is manipulation and broken trust all wrapped up into one. There are threats like, “I’ll stop talking to you if you don’t do this,” and there’s normalization like, “Everybody’s doing it, it’s not a big deal.” And to the average teenager who trusts their exploiter, that’s reason enough to go through with sending a simple photo or video. But it’s never worth the consequences of what can happen.

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– Sending nudes can be an unhealthy addition to any relationship. Objectification isn’t a healthy part of intimacy.

Objectification can be detrimental to relationships. In some cases, it can even be the first step to dehumanization and abuse.

A study by Princeton psychologists showed a group of men pictures of male and females, some barely clothed and some not. During the study, the psychologists monitored their medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC), which is involved in recognizing human faces and distinguishing one person from another. For the most part, the mPFC was activated with each picture. However, when the men viewed the sexual images, it was not activated. Basically, the automatic reaction in the men’s brains suggests that they didn’t perceive the women as fully human, just as a body.

This is why both mainstream porn and sending explicit pics can ultimately drive a wedge in relationships, instead of build intimacy.

– Sexting is linked to revenge porn, harassment, sextortion, and blackmail. Nudes are just not worth it.

Think about this, next time you’re asked to press send: sexts rarely just stay with the recipient. Most share the intended “private” pictures with their friends, and even online.

recent study at the University of Kent shows that about 99% of people surveyed expressed at least some approval with nonconsensual explicit pics being posted online, especially when they were presented with a scenario about a partner walking out on them.

Related: 5 Things You Can Do If You’re Being Sextorted

And while the study found that only 29% of participants in the study reported that they would actually ever post revenge porn, it’s still a sickening indicator of how our culture views the seriousness of digital sexual slavery. The study was clear to point out that not everyone has a regular desire to publish revenge porn, but more than of 87% of respondents expressed an excitement or amusement toward it. Not cool.

Send the Facts, Not Nudes

So, the next time you’re in a situation where this seemingly harmless exchange of images is about to go down, remember how pressing that send button can never be taken back. Sexting can open up a door to a much more serious world of child pornography and revenge porn that can end up seriously damaging the lives of real people.

Bottom line: Sending and receiving nude/sexual pics or vids just isn’t a smart idea. Either you’re under 18 and at risk of child pornography charges, or you’re over 18 and at risk of having your photos posted online for the entire world to see…or both.

Related: Both Teen Girls and Boys Take and Send Nudes, But for Different Reasons

Neither are great options.

Basically, be like this Fighter who sent us a screenshot of a text he received from a spam account a while ago:


Well played, man. Well played.

Have you sent nudes while you were under 18?

As you can see from the surveys above, teens are sending and receiving nudes now more than ever. If you have nudes online from when you were under 18, you’re not alone—there is help to get them removed. Take It Down is a free resource created by the National Center on Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) created to help you remove online nude, partially nude, or sexually explicit photos and videos taken before you were 18. If you’ve sent an explicit picture to someone while you were under 18, and now they’re threatening you or have posted it somewhere, or even if you’re unsure whether the image has been shared but want some help to try to remove it from places it may appear online, this service is for you.

Take It Down is a free service that can help you remove or stop the online sharing of nude, partially nude, or sexually explicit images or videos taken of you when you were under 18 years old. You can remain anonymous while using the service, and you won’t have to send your images or videos to anyone. You can learn how to use Take It Down, a free, anonymous resource, here.

For more victim resources, click here.

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