Is Sexting Losing Its Appeal for North Carolina Teens?

Posted on Jan 05, 2013

Two new scientific studies of teenage sexting behavior seem to indicate it’s not as common a practice as many adults once believed.

Sexting is variously defined as creating, sending, or delivering sexually explicit or suggestive images or videos either through mobile phones or the Internet. Because that definition is vague, it’s been challenging to determine the limits of that behavior. Now, two studies have been done to try and pin down the scope of the phenomenon.

A telephone survey from scientists at the University of New Hampshire Crimes Against Children Research Center found that 2.5 percent of adolescents surveyed engaged in sexually explicit sexting activity over the course of a year. That figure rose to almost 10 percent if provocative or suggestive images were included, too. The research was reported in the journal, Pediatrics.

A second study spearheaded by Kimberly Mitchell, an associate professor of psychology, looked at law enforcement investigations of sexual images created by teens during 2008 and 2009. Arrests were generally limited to cases where child pornography laws had been violated or other crimes, such as blackmail or harassment, were involved.

Local officials in New Hanover County were quick to dismiss these conclusions. District Attorney Benjamin R. David told reporters, “I think it’s underreported … I think a lot of people don’t regard this as a crime.”

Sgt. Jerry Brewer, spokesman for the New Hanover County Sheriff’s Office, disputed that sexting rates were declining. “It seems to be staying pretty steady, and with the age of technology we are in now, more people text than they do speak on the phone,” he said. “I think it’s something they are doing but don’t realize the consequences.”

Earlier estimates of teen sexting in North Carolina had converged around the 20 percent mark.

One of the primary reasons for public concern over teenage sexting is that it may violate state laws against child pornography, because so many participants are underage. When a young teen who takes a picture of her body and e-mails the image to a friend, there may be two prosecutions: of the photographer, for producing and transmitting child pornography, and of the recipient for receiving child pornography. The fact that the teenagers involved do not understand the potential legal consequences of their actions is not a defense the court recognizes.

Speaks Law Firm represents teenagers who are accused of sex crimes in Wilmington and surrounding towns. Contact us at 910-341-7570 or toll-free at 877-593-4233 if your son or daughter has made a youthful mistake in judgment and needs legal representation.

R. Clarke Speaks
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Trial Lawyer and Founder of Speaks Law Firm, P.C.