Sexting – The Risk to Our Kids and What We Can Do

Sexting, or a “sexual text message,” is the sending or receiving of inappropriate (explicit or

implicit) sexual text message, video or picture electronically, but primarily using wireless devices (e.g., cellphones, smartphones, tablets, etc.). As MTV’s A Thin Line campaign explains, sexting may not be a “big deal” for some people, but for others, it can have real consequences when someone feels pressured into sending a sext (or sexts) that goes viral.

According to a survey from the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project, 4 percent of 12- to 17-year-olds who own mobile devices admit to sending sexually suggestive nude or nearly nude images or videos of themselves to someone else via text message. Yet 15 percent of these teens say they have received such images of someone they know. In other words, even though a small percentage of teens admit to sending a sext, these images are usually shared with others and not only the intended recipient.

For parents, talking to kids about what to do if they send or receive a sext should help to address the issue BEFORE it has the potential to become an emotional or legal problem. In addition, kids should know that some jurisdictions have made it illegal for an adult to possess or transmit a sexual image of anyone under the age of 18, regardless of if it was consensual. The consequences of sexting can be real and long-term. Parents need to talk with their kids about sexting and use parental management tools. By proactively addressing this matter, parents and kids can prevent any potential problems.

To help parents talk to their kids about sexting and responsible wireless use, CTIA and its members offer a number of management tools and tips. By using them, parents can manage or monitor their kids’ wireless usage, including placing limits or restricting camera features and text and picture messages.

How to Respond

  • If your child is sending or receiving sexts

See How to Respond >

Case Studies

  • Learn from others’ experiences, including how the situations were handled and how sexting affected others

See Case Studies >

  • Even though only 4% of teens have admitted to sending a sext, 15% have said they’ve seen such a message of someone they know. This shows the sender loses control of the message or image since sexts can be (and usually are) shared with others.