Interesting AJC story this morning on how far fewer kids are “sexting” than what most of us believe.
My favorite line in this story: “…teenagers are neurologically programmed to do dumb things.”
This story found that only 1 percent of kids aged 10 to 17 have shared images of themselves or others that involve explicit nudity.
A controversy sidestepped by the story is whether kids as young as 10 should even have cell phones. I suspect that many of you will argue that they should not, given the example in the piece of a 10-year-old boy sending out photos of his genitalia to “gross out” a classmate.
I gave my twins cell phones about eight months ago for safety reasons. My kids are about to turn 13 this month. My son never uses his or even remembers to take it with him — he is not a talk on the phone or text type. His sister will carry her phone, but also seldom uses it, although she yearns for one with a keyboard. (I bought them the basic, cheap flip phones, which is what I still use. )
I have friends whose middle schoolers have lost iPhones, dropped them in the sink or stepped on them. Yet, I know that many parents are facing pleas now from their 13-year-olds for iPhone 4s for Christmas or Hanukkah. I think kids are too young with such pricey gadgets.
Only 1 percent of kids aged 10 to 17 have shared images of themselves or others that involve explicit nudity, a nationally representative study found. Roughly the same number said they’d shared suggestive but less graphic photos; while 7 percent said they’d received either type of picture. The research suggests texting of sexual photos among younger kids is extremely rare but more common among older teens.
Previous reports said as many as one in five young people — 20 percent — have participated in sexting. But some surveys included older teens and people in their early 20s. And some used definitions of sexting that included racy text messages without photos, or images “no more revealing than what someone might see at a beach,” authors of the new study said. They focused only on pictures, and asked more detailed questions about the kinds of racy photos kids are sharing.
The researchers did a separate study on how police deal with teen sexting of photos. Contrary to some reports, that research suggests few kids are being prosecuted or forced to register as sex offenders for sexting. It estimates that nearly 4,000 teen sexting cases were reported to police nationwide in 2008 and 2009. Slightly more than one-third of those cases resulted in arrests. About one-third of all cases involved teens and young adults; the adults were much more likely to be arrested.
The research shows that sexting can range from incidents that some teen health experts consider typical adolescent exploring — the 21st century version of sneaking a look at dad’s Playboy magazine, to malicious cases with serious consequences made possible by today’s technology.
For example, one case involved a 10-year-old boy who sent a cellphone picture of his genitals to an 11-year-old classmate “to gross her out.” The girl’s mother called police; the boy cried when questioned by police, who concluded he didn’t understand the magnitude of his actions and left the matter to his parents.
Dr. Victor Strasburger, an adolescent medicine expert at the University of New Mexico, said parents, schools and law enforcement authorities “need to understand that teenagers are neurologically programmed to do dumb things.” Their brains aren’t mature enough to fully realize the consequences of their actions, including sexting, until early adulthood, he said.
Instead of prosecution, he said, there should be more emphasis on teaching teens to be responsible with new technology. Kids need to be told “that when you put things online and even when you send them via cellphone, they’re potentially there forever.”
–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog