The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC) recommends handling the issue of teenage “sexting” on a case-by-case basis in a new policy statement on the issue.
“There has been much concern that teens engaged in ‘sexting’ would be criminally prosecuted and required to register as sex offenders,” said Ernie Allen, president of NCMEC, in a statement. “That isn’t happening. Yet, ‘sexting’ is a large problem that we have to come to grips with as a nation.”
“Sexting” refers to the sending of sexually explicit messages or photos. According to the NCMEC, many teens are using devices like cell phones, computers and Web cams to take and distribute sexually explicit photographs of themselves or other people.
The issue of sexting is particularly difficult to deal with because it covers a wide range of severity, from just risky conduct to exploitation and even blackmail. In some instances, sexting entails serious criminal acts while in other instances the practice is just inappropriate or risky conduct.
The NCMEC does not believe that a blanket policy of charging all youth engaged in the practice with juvenile or criminal violations will remedy the problem. Instead, the group recommends teens and their parents become better informed about the implications and repercussions of their acts.
Almost 20 percent of teens have sent, received or forwarded sexually suggestive nude or nearly nude photos through text message or e-mail, according to a recent survey of 655 U.S. teenagers conducted by Cox Communications for the NCMEC. Sixty percent of the teens surveyed said they send photos to their boyfriend or girlfriend, but 11 percent said they had sent “sexts” to someone they didn’t even know. Eighty-one percent of teen sexters are under 18.
For the full policy statement, see the NCMEC’s website.
Filed Under: Industry regulations