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Is Teen Sexting a Real Problem or Just Hype?

By Andrew Chow, Esq. on December 13, 2011 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

FindLaw columnist Eric Sinrod writes regularly in this section on legal developments surrounding technology and the Internet.

Most of us have heard about sexting -- the practice of people sharing naked pictures of themselves online. Indeed, there have been press reports that suggest texting has become the latest teenage craze. Fact or fiction? Perhaps a bit of both.

Recent studies by the journal Pediatrics show that 1% of children between the ages of 10 to 17 have engaged in sexting. About the same percentage have shared less explicit but still suggestive photos of themselves. And 7% report that they had been the recipient of either type of photo.

This does not suggest rampant sexting on a percentage basis. However, on a sheer numbers basis, even 1% of all children between the ages of 10 to 17 means that many thousands of such kids have engaged in sexting.

Furthermore, other studies have shown a higher percentage of sexting among teenagers 14 and older, and also among young adults.

The recent studies tend to show that few children actually are prosecuted or compelled to register as sex offenders by virtue of having sexted. That is not the real danger.

Rather, just one sext can have a life of its own. It is true that people have been fascinated by the human body since humans first walked the earth. Indeed, cave paintings and sculptures from past millennia depict the nude human form in all of its splendor.

But instead of a cave painting or sculpture that might be available for viewing by just a few people, a sext can go viral all over the Internet.

Imagine this scenario: A 13-year-old girl sends a text message with a photo of her topless to her boyfriend of the same age. He then sends it to his friends, who send it to others by text and email, and then one of them posts it on various Internet sites for all of the world to see.

Needless to say, the poor girl could be humiliated and embarrassed, and she may then be harassed by others. It could also be difficult to track down, take down, and delete of copies of the photo.

So, while the percentage of all teenagers who are sexting may not be as high as originally thought, the sheer numbers are not irrelevant and the impact on people directly affected can be dramatic.

Eric Sinrod is a partner in the San Francisco office of Duane Morris LLP ( where he focuses on litigation matters of various types, including information technology and intellectual property disputes. His Web site is and he can be reached at To receive a weekly email link to Mr. Sinrod's columns, please send an email to him with Subscribe in the Subject line. This column is prepared and published for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. The views expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the author's law firm or its individual partners.

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