TO read your kids' texts or NOT? Where does their privacy start and end in trying to keep them safe? What are our responsibilities as parents start and end? I'm sure that there will be parents on both sides. Some who will think that it could never happen to their child, but since we are not around out kids at school and can not overhear every conversation in passing, HOW do we keep our kids safe from this? Then it makes think of emails. Does the privacy protection we have on our kids' accounts bar this type of message from a friend or even a stranger or spam?
Nearly 1 in 3 older teens gets ‘sexting’ messages
Study says 6 percent of those as young as 12 have received racy texts
Thirty percent of 17-year-olds who have cell phones say they have received "sexting" photos or video messages, according to a new report from the Pew Internet & American Life Project.
Eight percent of 17-year-olds say they have sent such sexually suggestive images. Among teens ages 12 to 17 years old, 15 percent say they have received nude or nearly nude images of someone they know via text messaging on their cell phones, while 4 percent say they have sent such photos. Among 12- and 13-year olds, 6 percent say they have received "sext messages."
"It’s an issue that teens grapple with and deal with in their lives, and one that deserves attention," said Amanda Lenhart, Pew senior research specialist who worked on the "Teens and Sexting" report.
"In our focus groups, we heard that plenty of teens had experienced this, either by sending the suggestive images, receiving them or by encountering them second-hand on a passed-around cell phone, hearing about friends doing it, hearing about it in the hallway."
Sexting is gaining national attention, with at least two teen suicides in the past 18 months associated with the problem, and lawmakers and prosecutors around the country grappling with how to handle such cases.
The Pew report, based on focus groups with 800 teens in Denver, Atlanta and New York, mirrors the findings of a recent poll by the Associated Press and MTV of more than 1,200 teens which concluded that more than a quarter of them have been involved in sexting in some form.
Phone is 'major source of content' for teens
"The (cell) phone is such a vital part of these teens' lives that it isn’t surprising that it’s a major source of content for them — both positive content and content that’s more worrisome," Lenhart said.
In a 2004 survey of teens, Pew said, 18 percent of 12-year-olds had a cell phone, compared to 58 percent of 12-year-olds now. Five years ago, 64 percent of 17-year-olds had a cell phone, compared to 83 percent now. In addition, cell phones themselves have changed dramatically since 2004, with many of them now having Internet access.
Teens who pay their own cell phone bills are "more likely to send 'sexts,' " Pew said in the report, with 17 percent saying they have done so, compared to 3 percent of teens "who do not pay for, or only pay a portion of the cost" of their cell phone bills.
Text messaging is an add-on charge for most wireless users, and some parents monitor their children's' wireless use, including text messaging, as well as the content of those messages.
"Just 9 percent of teens who sent sexy images by text had parents who restricted the number of texts or other messages they could send; 28 percent of teens who didn't send these texts had parents who limited their child's texting," the Pew report said.
"One younger high school boy told us that he never sends or receives sexually suggestive images via text because 'my mom goes through my phone.' However, another high school boy described how he password-protected images to keep others from viewing them."
Happens 'far more than any poll can show'
Parry Aftab, executive director of WiredSafety.org, said sexting is much more of a problem than most parents realize.
"It's not 'that kid' who's doing it, it's your kid," she said. "If your kid hasn’t taken a (suggestive) picture and shared it with somebody else, in all likelihood they’ve seen one, they may have possession of one or they may be sending them around.
"And it’s happening far more than any poll can show," she said. "Many more kids are sexting at much younger ages than people think.
"They do it at slumber parties, they do it in the gym, in the locker rooms, where they all dance around, and somebody takes out their cell phone camera and take pictures of the others" and then shares the the photos with others by phone or posting them online.