20% Of Teens Send Sexually Explicit Photos Of Themselves?

from the really? dept

Sure, we've seen all sorts of moral panic-type reports about kids not thinking so much about the consequences of what content they reveal about themselves online, but it still strikes me as a bit unlikely that one in five teens reports sending sexually explicit photos of themselves to others using either mobile phones or online tools. Perhaps it depends on the definition of "sexually explicit."

This brings up another issue that was raised recently at the privacy discussion I attended recently. After someone pointed out that the younger generation is just used to being more open, a question was raised: is this a generational issue or a maturational issue? In other words, is the younger generation really just used to being more open about things, or is it that they haven't matured enough to recognize the potential impact of what they're doing -- and, as they age, will be more reasonable. I'm not sure anyone really knows the answer to that just yet.


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  1.  
    identicon
    Emily, Jan 8th, 2009 @ 10:02pm

    This really depends on the definition. While considerably less would send nudes, think about how many people, especially girls, send teasing photos in intentionally sexy clothes, or topless with a bra, photos with a bit of too-obvious cleavage, those party pics with the slutty looks on the faces, that sorta stuff. If they're including that kinda thing I'd say its pretty reasonable

     

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    alex, Jan 8th, 2009 @ 10:02pm

    maturity has very little to do with it. teens in every generation do 'stupid' and 'shocking' things that will invariably damage them beyond the ability to be a normal person in the future...if you listen to experts.

    i'm sure with the proliferation of polaroid cameras, the exact same thing happened. i'm sure with the first easily available digital cameras this began to show up.

    kids do stupid things. hell, adults do stupid things. ever heard of kwame kilpatrick? i bet the teens sending 'explicit' pictures of themselves were actually smarter than our defunct mayor.

    this is a technological issue. and before you go banning digital communications, realize-it. will. happen. again. and again. with each iteration of new ways to take and send pictures.

    the shock value will wear off in between, and the next time it happens, someone will decry the decaying morals of our youths and how theyre destroying themselves.

    and i bet those same people will have sent some pretty risque stuff themselves.

     

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  3.  
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    Steve, Jan 8th, 2009 @ 11:08pm

    Re:

    @ Alex

    That doesn't make sense, you say maturity has nothing to do with it, and then that teens in every generation do similar things. Teens are by definition not mature, and thus maturity has everything to do with it.

    But I think Mike is very right in that we will really know for sure when they are grown whether there openness is personality trait or behavior.

     

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  4.  
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    Jack, Jan 8th, 2009 @ 11:08pm

    Re:

    No matter the definition, at least 30% of my friends have done this with nudity of some kind involved (girls topless or guys pantsless). It may be less in some groups and more in others. But still, boyfriends and girlfriends like to send stuff like this to each other. I know at least one of my friends has been doing this sense 9th grade.

    He knew what he was doing and is going to college next year. Yes it's illegal but its no different (to me at least) then seeing the person naked in person.

     

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  5.  
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    Chunky Vomit, Jan 9th, 2009 @ 12:01am

    I think maturity has something to do with it. Once you get honry, you want to take your clothes off and poke somebody, without thinking through the consequences - and you'll use whatever mediums available to satisfy that sexual desire.

     

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  6.  
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    PaulT (profile), Jan 9th, 2009 @ 1:12am

    Re:

    "i'm sure with the proliferation of polaroid cameras, the exact same thing happened"

    Exactly. IMHO, there is just one difference between this generation and my generation before it - there's a bigger potential audience for the dumb stuff this generation does. If a teenager 20 years ago took a "naughty" Polaroid, it might have gotten shared with one or two people. A digital photo can be shared with millions if they're not careful.

    Just as a kid will often use a photocopier to take a photo of their rear end if they get the chance, today's teenagers will take pictures of themselves with their new phone camera. Their exploration of sexuality is more public than it used to be, but that's all that's really changed.

     

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  7.  
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    Kevin, Jan 9th, 2009 @ 3:40am

    Re:

    those party pics with the slutty looks on the faces, that sorta stuff. If they're including that kinda thing I'd say its pretty reasonable

    I'm familiar with the concept of someone looking slutty, but it's usually related to how someone is dressed. How exactly does a girl have a "slutty look on her face"? The only thing that comes to mind is if she has someone's cock in her mouth...

     

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  8.  
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    Kevin, Jan 9th, 2009 @ 3:42am

    Re: Re:

    Yes it's illegal but its no different (to me at least) then seeing the person naked in person.

    The only real difference is that you can be arrested, convicted, and labeled a sex offender for life for taking/exchanging the pictures, whereas if you saw them naked in person nothing would happen to you.

    It kinda makes me think that our laws are pretty ill-suited to reality.

     

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  9.  
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    CMG, Jan 9th, 2009 @ 3:56am

    Nothing's Changed

    Nothing has changed whatsoever except the medium which it is exchanged, and the publicity.

    How many times have you heard a story about a child finding dirty pictures somewhere in the house? You hear about it all the time.

    As I said, nothing has changed. These teens WILL mature with time, maybe they will live to regret it, but maybe not.

    Now people are much more aware of it because of the internet, people share, send and swap pictures of their girlfriends and stuff all the time, and now you can also edit and save the pictures however you want.

    -CMG

     

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    Archer0911, Jan 9th, 2009 @ 5:50am

    on the dot

    It kinda makes me think that our laws are pretty ill-suited to reality.

    I don't think there's any "kinda" about it Kevin, I think you hit the point dead on.

     

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  11.  
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    duder, Jan 9th, 2009 @ 6:04am

    hormones

    uh, teens are overflowing with hormones, and guess what, all rationale goes out the door and ways to express their sexuality comes flooding in. Technology is just a new medium.

     

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  12.  
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    fprintf, Jan 9th, 2009 @ 7:12am

    Risk... to everyone else.

    And for all this promiscuity, there is a risk to the casual internet user in the availability of these images. Let's say, for example, you go to a NSFW site that has posted images. There is no knowing, unless you intentionally find a site that assures a reader that all images are legal, that you won't find an under 18 person in your cache. I am not talking kiddie porn, I am talking the MySpace/Facebook images that float around from time to time.

    It requires vigilance, frequent cache/cookie clearing and general paranoia given our draconian laws. These laws were implemented with good intentions, yet I worry that many people could be snared through no intentional acts of underage picture viewing.

     

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  13.  
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    Michael Langford, Jan 9th, 2009 @ 8:09am

    low number

    I would have to say its probably considerably more than 20% of teens with internet access that have nude pics floating around, just a large number of them would not admit it. Adults the same. Does anyone remember the user created yahoo chat rooms? I spent quite a bit of time in them as a teen and I would say half of the girls I talked to had nude pics and wanted yours, and a whole bunch of them would be semi-nude or nude on webcam... of course I was in a local chat room and my city is 65% female...

     

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  14.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 9th, 2009 @ 9:27am

    Re: Re: Re:

    "whereas if you saw them naked in person nothing would happen to you."

    You so sure about that?

     

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  15.  
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    Myrna, Jan 9th, 2009 @ 9:49am

    appropriate photos/texting

    I think about this subject a lot. As a parent of teens. As a writer of a blog about teens. As a "50-something" mom, not of the tech generation. I've concluded it's both. As an older blogger, I can tell you people under the age of 50 are far more likely to make personal matters public. But, I do agree that the maturational issue is why internet "broadcasting" by teens, whether it's texting, Facebook or other...is particularly dangerous. By definition, teens take risks and make mistakes that most adults do not. Unfortunately, their mistakes online are visible to all forever. Therein is the problem. How easy would it be to find out the mistakes made by people who are now my age (54)? It's not easy unless they were arrested and it was chronicled by the local paper. I can also assure you that other parents my age do not have a clue what a "blogger" is and are baffled by why "I would want to write for all the world to see" on the internet.

     

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  16.  
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    Doug (profile), Jan 9th, 2009 @ 11:05am

    A different perspective on surveys

    Speaking from my own experience, whenever I filled out these surveys in highschool/middle school/grade school I suddenly became a sick freak. I would answer things like drinking and doing drugs daily even though I never touched the stuff. I had sex weekly even though I was a virgin. I broke the law, etc, etc.

    So, I'm just saying, take these surveys with a grain of salt. Just because it's a survey does not mean it's accurate.

     

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  17.  
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    Libby, Jan 12th, 2009 @ 5:35am

    (lack of) Maturity may shape this Generation

    Regarding the "Maturational" vs "generational" cause for teens' increasingly open behavior, I expect these two causes to be impossible to isolate. Sure, maybe these kids will turn 25 and regret the openness with which they "expressed" themselves at age 15, but the permanence of their actions will likely have a psychological, "rationalizing" effect.

     

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