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Fact Sheet


What is sexting?

Sexting is the term used to describe the exchange of nude images or a sexually suggestive text message on cell phones.

How frequently does sexting happen?

A report set out by the Pew Research Center in 2009 mentioned that nearly 15% of teenagers with cell phones have received nude photos through a text service (Pew Research Center’s Internet and American Life Project). For the most part, teens in the older age group of 14 to 17 are more likely to engage in sexting than their younger counterparts (Pew Research Center).

Why do people use their phones for sexting?

According to a focus group held by the Pew Research Center, there are several reasons why teens decide to take part in sexting:

  • Some see sexting as a “first step” before they decide to become sexually active;
  • Sexting can be used in a romantic relationship between partners;
  • Other teens think that sexting is a good way to tell someone that they show interest in a future relationship.

There are several other reasons, unrelated to personal relationships that also lead people to send nude images on cell phones. The most common was peer pressure that leads many young teens, especially girls, to feel that they have to send sexually explicit images of themselves over the Internet.

Others treat sexting as an experiment, wanting to send these images before they become sexually active.

What are the risks with sexting?

Unfortunately, what may seem harmless to many people can have severe social and even legal consequences. In some states, teens that have either sent or received nude images over the phone have been prosecuted on charges of child pornography. Some have even been listed as sex offenders.

Perhaps an overlooked risk over sexting is that it does not guarantee privacy. Often times, especially after breakups, sexting images are sent to other students. These can also be used as blackmail or even more dangerous forms of sexual harassment.


The following source provided information for this fact sheet:
Pew Research Center’s Internet and American Life Project Report on Teens and Sexting.

ReachOut would like to thank Cherisse Thibaut of Missouri KidsFirst for reviewing the content of this fact sheet and for providing valuable information and resources.

Last edited by LC Feb 2014.

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