It is part of the modern condition to connect via a digital device. Calling people is now secondary to texting, posting on social media, finding a gas station, or the hundreds of other uses owners find for their device. One part of that communication that has evolved in recent years is the phenomena of sexting.

It is no surprise that several studies found that sharing sexually explicit messages, photos or video via electronic means is on the rise among teens. According to researchers at the University of New Hampshire and Boston University, an estimated 15% of teens have sent a sext, and 27% have received them.

These findings are an area of concern for parents, law enforcement and education professionals as kids increasingly interact via digital devices. A majority of children do understand that it is wrong to engage in this behavior. Still, those who do are less likely to consider sexting a crime, nor do they believe it will impact their romantic relationships, friendships and relationships with family.

Other noted trends include:

  • It becomes increasingly common as the kids get older.
  • Boys were more likely to engage in this behavior.
  • Boys were less likely to report sexting to the authorities.
  • Boys were less likely to talk with friends about not engaging in this behavior.
  • Minors who engaged in sexual intercourse, engaged in intentional pornography consumption or admitted to drug or alcohol use were at higher risk for sexting.

Is there legal recourse?

Pediatricians recommend that parents discuss sexting and sex education issues as early as possible. At that time, there should be a discussion about the emotional distress that it can cause for those pressured to send sexts as well as those who receive them. The situation can get much worse if the photos are distributed further without permission — 12% of teens said they forwarded a sext without the consent from the sender, and 8% of teens reported this happening.

The rise in consensual sexting behavior means that courts may be less likely to prosecute because of the potential lifetime label for a sex offender. The thinking here is that a half-nude photo sent to a high school boyfriend or girlfriend is not grounds for ruining a minor’s life.

For some, this is also about growing into adulthood. According to JAMA Pediatrics, “Adolescence is a time of life in which teenagers are learning about their own bodies, how to take risks, and about romantic attractions. For some teenagers, engaging in sexting may feel like a way to explore their attraction to someone.”

Legal guidance often necessary

The variables involved in an incident will help to determine the severity of the matter with consent being a key issue. If one party involved in sexting is now an adult, that could also lead to additional complications even it was consensual.

Parents with a teen or a young adult accused of sexting need to take any charges or accusations seriously because damage can still be done even if there is no conviction. An attorney who handles sex crimes can often provide valuable insights into handling these situations and minimizing their impact. Contact The Law Offices of Anthony N. Palumbo online or call 908-316-8671 to arrange a free initial consultation.