What is “sexting”?

Sexting is the act of sending pictures of a sexual nature between cell phones, or other electronic media such as the Internet. It is often done between minors.

How common is sexting?

Some 20 percent of teens admit to participating in sexting, according to a nationwide survey by the National Campaign to Support Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy. (“Sex and Tech: Results from a Survey of Teens and Young Adults,” The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy; PDF)

How does sexting affect youth?

There can be a bullying aspect to sexting. In one case in Cincinnati, a girl committed suicide after photos she sent to a boyfriend were sent to hundreds of people. The girl received harassing messages through her MySpace and Facebook accounts, and in person. (Source)

Are there any legal precedents regarding sexting?

  • A Pennsylvania district attorney attempted to prosecute three girls for sexting. In this case, the prosecutor threatened to charge the girls with felony child pornography for sending partially-nude pictures of themselves to boys in their classes. (Source)
  • The Vermont legislature is currently considering a bill to legalize the consensual exchange of graphic images between two people ages 13 to 18 years old. (Source)

What are the ramifications for schools? 

  • In Seattle, parents are suing the school district for suspending two girls after finding semi-nude photos of the girls on other students’ cell phones. The parents claim the school did not handle the case properly. (Source)
  • Teachers, principals and administrators must safeguard themselves, too. In one case in Virginia, an assistant principal was charged with possession of child pornography after investigating a sexting case at his school. (Source)

What should school districts do?

  • School districts should consider a variety of actions around raising awareness of and increasing education about sexting. Districts may partner with other community organizations or public offices to provide staff trainings on bullying, cyberbullying and computer/internet safety, including sexting and safety on social networking sites. This can include — but is not limited to — in-school assemblies for students, professional development for staff, training for school board members, distribution of school rules and policies through student handbooks, newsletters/correspondence to the community,  resources on the school webpage and public forums.
  • It is important to remember that any education around sexting can and should be aimed at the whole community when possible. This means including students, board members and staff as well as parents and community members. While the majority of recent press has involved middle and high school students, education around computer/internet/technology safety should include younger children as appropriate. There are a variety of informational websites and documents for students, parents and educators.


For Further Reading:

  • “A kinder, gentler response to adolescent ‘sexting’” (Article)
  • “OMG, teens R "sexting" (Article)
  • “States consider new 'sexting' laws” (Article