Today The Campaign, along with our friends at Cosmogirl.com, released a survey about the scary intersection of sex and technology. As it turns out, nearly 40% of teens are sending sexually suggestive text message, IMs, or emails. And nearly half have received them. Think that's bad? They're also sending sexually explicit photos and video—about 1 in 5 teens say they've posted or sent nude or semi-nude images of themselves. Most send this stuff to their boyfriends and girlfriends but 15% of those who've done it say they've sent such content to people they know only online. Yikes!
There's a lot to talk about here. Teens know it's dangerous and they do it anyway. This sort of activity increases with age (so much for "youthful indiscretions" that are over by adulthood). Teen girls say they do it because they think its "fun" but many guys see it as being "hot" and nearly a third of teen boys say girls who send such content are expected to hook up. Guys show what they're receiving to their buddies. And nearly a quarter of teens say this sort technology makes them more forward and aggressive in real life.
Real life. That's the scariest part of all. If someone has already seen photos of your naked body either online or on their cell phone screen, then the expectation for sexual contact may be more intense when you spend time with them in person. Or it might be harder to say "no" to something in real life if you've pushed the envelope electronically. Not to mention the real life impact these photos may have when potential employers or college admissions officers or new friends or first dates or sworn enemies or pretty much anyone else searches for information about you online.
And for the most part parents have no idea what's going on. When parents were growing up their moms answered the phone and knew their friends' voices. Phone conversations took place in the kitchen in front of everyone. Even if they took racy pictures of themselves as teens the only way to share them was passing around snapshots and then hiding them away. "Friends" were people you knew and spent time with—not a classification on Facebook that applies equally to people you've never met as well as lifelong pals. Parents may (or may not) be old-fashioned or out of touch when it comes to teens' attitudes about sex, drugs, drinking, etc., but at least they've lived through it. Not so with cell phone culture and social networking. Which can make it harder to talk about and easier to get away with.
For survey results, teen reaction, news coverage, tips for parents, things to think about before you press 'send' and more check out Sex and Tech: What's Really Going On on our site and Cosmogirl.com's The Daily Kiss blog.