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Thursday, June 25, 2009

Sexting picture a bit clearer, maybe brighter

We all just got a little clearer picture on teen sexting (nude or sexy texting), and it's not quite as dark as previously painted. The first known (and widely cited) survey on the subject, by the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, found that 20% of teens have "sent/posted nude or semi-nude pictures or video of themselves." The latest figure - in a new survey by Harris Interactive for the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children and Cox Communications - is very close to that (19%), but it's cumulative; there's a breakdown of who's involved in sexting and how. As ConnectSafely co-director Larry Magid reports in CNET, "the data from the Cox survey showed that, while 20% of teens "have engaged in sexting ... only 9% 'sent a sext,' ... 17% received one and 3% forwarded a 'sext'.... That 9% number is too high but it's less than half the 20% figure commonly used. And 90% of the kids who sent 'sexts' said that nothing bad happened, even though 74% of the kids agreed that sexting is 'wrong'. Twenty-three percent felt that it's OK if both parties are OK with it and only 3% said 'there is nothing wrong with it'." It's when "something bad happens" that we worry, because of the child-porn-related legal implications (see "Tips to Prevent Sexting" for more on that), but sexting can also turn into cyberbullying. And here's what's concerning about there: According to Clemson University psychology professor Robin Kowalski, kids don't want to tell parents or other adults about digital harassment because they fear 1) they'll be further victimized if the bully gets into trouble and retaliates and 2) their parents will remove their computers or cellphones - social lifelines - in an effort to protect them.

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