Sexting — sharing sexually explicit photos, videos and chat by cell phone or online — is fairly commonplace among young people, despite sometimes grim consequences for those who do it. More than a quarter of young people have been involved in sexting in some form, an Associated Press-MTV poll found.
That includes Sammy, a 16-year-old from the San Francisco Bay Area who asked that his last name not be used.
Sammy said he had shared naked pictures of himself with girlfriends. He also shared naked pictures of someone else that a friend had sent him.
What he didn't realize at the time was that young people across the country — in Florida, Indiana, Ohio and Pennsylvania — have faced charges, in some cases felony charges, for sending nude pictures.
"That's why I probably wouldn't do it again," Sammy said.
Yet, "I just don't see it as that big of a problem, personally."
That was the view of nearly half of those surveyed who have been involved in sexting. The other half said it's a serious problem — and did it anyway. Knowing there might be consequences hasn't stopped them.
"There's definitely the invincibility factor that young people feel," said Kathleen Bogle, a sociology professor at La Salle University in Philadelphia and author of the book "Hooking Up: Sex, Dating and Relationships on Campus."
"That's part of the reason why they have a high rate of car accidents and things like that, is they think, 'Oh, well, that will never happen to me,'" Bogle said.
Research shows teenage brains are not quite mature enough to make good decisions consistently. By the mid-teens, the brain's reward centers, the parts involved in emotional arousal, are well-developed, making teens more vulnerable to peer pressure.
But it is not until the early 20s that the brain's frontal cortex, where reasoning connects with emotion, enabling people to weigh consequences, has finished forming.
Beyond feeling invincible, young people also have a much different view of sexual photos that might be posted online, Bogle said. They don't think about the idea that those photos might wind up in the hands of potential employers or college admissions officers, she said.
"Sometimes they think of it as a joke; they have a laugh about it," Bogle said. "In some cases, it's seen as flirtation. They're thinking of it as something far less serious and aren't thinking of it as consequences down the road or who can get hold of this information. They're also not thinking about worst-case scenarios that parents might worry about."
Sexting doesn't stop with teenagers. Young adults are even more likely to have sexted; one-third of them said they had been involved in sexting, compared with about one-quarter of teenagers.
Thelma, a 25-year-old from Natchitoches, La., who didn't want her last name used, said she's been asked more than once to send naked pictures of herself to a man.
Sunday, December 6, 2009
Kids Sexiting Via Mobile and Internet Increases
Poll finds sexting common among young people