What is Sexting?
Sexting is the act of sending sexually explicit messages or photographs, primarily between mobile phones. The term was first popularized in early 21st century, and is a portmanteau of sex and texting, where the latter is meant in the wide sense of sending a text possibly with images.
The first known published mention from of the term sexting was in a 2005 article in the Sunday Telegraph Magazine. Sexting has since been described as taking place in the UK, Australia, the U.S., and Canada.
In a 2008 survey of 1,280 teenagers and young adults of both sexes on Cosmogirl.com sponsored by The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, 20% of teens (13-20) and 33% of young adults (20-26) had sent nude or semi-nude photographs of themselves electronically. Additionally, 39% of teens and 59% of young adults had sent sexually explicit text messages. A sociologist at Colorado College interviewed 80 students and believes this claim is overblown; she claims “I had them go through their last ten messages, their last ten photos and I never saw it.”
Indeed, a widely cited 2011 study indicated the previously reported prevalence was exaggerated. Researchers at the University of New Hampshire surveyed 1,560 children and caregivers, discovering that only 1% of minors over the age of 10 had taken explicit photos. Perhaps shedding light on the over-reporting of earlier studies, the researchers found that the figure rose to 9.6% when the definition was broadened from images prosecutable as child pornography to any suggestive image, not necessarily nude ones.
Sexting is a result of advances in technology enabling new forms of social interaction. Messages with sexual content have been exchanged over all forms of historical media. Newer technology allows sending pictures, and videos, which are intrinsically more explicit and have greater impact, without the involvement of photo printing personnel, or the need of a photo processing dark room at home (just like when using an instant camera, but even easier and less expensive). A social danger with sexting is that material can be very easily and widely propagated, over which the originator has no control.