Study: Teen Sexting Fears Overblown?

New research says that just 1 percent of teens have sent pictures with explicit nudity.

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Teen sexting fears overblown? (Thinkstock)

New research suggests that fears of teen sexting may be overblown, the Associated Press reports, citing two studies released Monday in the journal Pediatrics.

Only 1 percent of kids aged 10 to 17 have shared images of themselves or others that involve explicit nudity, a nationally representative study found. Roughly the same number said they'd shared suggestive but less graphic photos; while 7 percent said they'd received either type of picture.

The research focused on teens only -- not young adults, an age group included in some earlier studies which showed considerably higher sexting participation. The new study suggests texting of sexual photos among younger kids is rare.

The results are reassuring, showing that teen sexting isn't rampant, usually isn't malicious, and is generally not something parents should panic over, said lead author Kimberly Mitchell, a research assistant psychology professor at the University of New Hampshire.

... In the first study, researchers questioned 1,560 kids nationwide by phone, with parents' permission, between in August 2010 and January of this year. The second study is based on mailed questionnaires to nearly 3,000 police departments and follow-up phone interviews with investigating officers about sexting cases handled in 2008 and 2009.

The studies illustrate how sexting may include a wide range of teen behavior, and highlight an issue "about which we as a society have gotten pretty hysterical and probably blew out of proportion," said Dr. Michael Rich, director of the Center on Media and Child Health at Children's Hospital Boston.

An expert in the story explains that fears of teen sexting may be overhyped because it's happening in an environment that parents do not understand. Well, it's better to be safe than sorry. Parents should still monitor this behavior.

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