What Is 'Sexting'? Is Sexting a Big Problem Today?

Sexting: the Emailing of Explicit Personal Photos by Smartphone. Photographer's Choice / Getty Images

Question: What Is 'Sexting'? Is Sexting a Big Problem Today?

Answer: An estimated 39% of teenagers in the USA practice 'sexting', where the users take suggestive photos of themselves, and beam them to other people's cell phones. At first practiced by teenage girls seeking the affections of teenage boys, but now practiced equally by both young males and females, sexting is not winning any friends with police nor judges. Some people see it as simple teenage angst, but some lawmakers are turning it into a felony.

In North Carolina, teenagers were almost prosecuted for pornography charges because of their sexting hobby. Multiple states in the USA have imposed new sexting laws. In even sadder news: Jessica Logan of Ohio committed suicide because she was ridiculed over sexting messages to her boyfriend.

Is Sexting Just a New Fad, or a Bigger Problem?

The motivation and act of sharing explicit personal photos is not new by any means. Sharing lewd photographs with other youth has been part of adolescent angst for many decades. But because of the widespread availability of mobile messaging, cell phone cameras, and apps dedicated to sexting, it has become very easy and very quick to forward explicit personal photos. Since 2008, sexting messages have become virally popular with tweens in North America and Europe.

The sexting problem lies in how easy it is to re-broadcast the photos, to the embarassment and shame of the originator. An innocuous experimental message sent to a cute boy or girl can quickly spin out of control, and the originator can become the laughing stock and shameful gossip dirt of the entire school. When a photo becomes viral online, it is virtually impossible to remove the damage and recall all the copies.
No, sexting is not just a fad: it is another modern expressed form of adolescent angst, multiplied a thousand-fold by the viral nature of social media. The motivation is not the problem: kids will be kids. It is the maturity by which we all approach the convenience of modern messaging. So few of us actually appreciate the viral power of a smartphone camera, but maybe when enough teens embarass themselves online, then maturity and self-control will prevail.

What Can Parents Do About Sexting?

Lifewire has some advice on how to approach your tweenager and be a supportive influence. Read more about sexting advice for parents here.