MONDAY, Dec. 5 (HealthDay News) -- Concerns over teenage "sexting" -- sending suggestive or explicit images by cellphone or online -- might be overblown, new research finds.
Only a small minority of children reports transmitting pornographic pictures, and legal consequences are the exception, rather than the rule, researchers say.
In the first of two studies from the University of New Hampshire Crimes Against Children Research Center, some 1,500 young Internet users, aged 10 to 17, responded to phone survey questions about their experiences sending or receiving sexual images within the last year.
"I think our findings are reassuring to an extent," said lead author Kimberly Mitchell, a research associate professor of psychology. "We saw a variety of seriousness. Some kids are just taking pictures and sending them to their boyfriends. Aggravated sexting, by comparison, includes drugs, alcohol, coercion."
When asked whether they had either appeared in or created nude or nearly nude images, or received them, 149 students (9.6 percent) said yes. Of those, 110 (7.1 percent) had received nude or semi-nude images, and 5.9 percent had received sexually explicit images, meaning pictures of bared breasts, genitals or bottoms, which might potentially violate child pornography laws.
Thirty-nine kids (2.5 percent) said they appeared in or created images that involved semi-nudity or near-nudity. Of these, 1.3 percent were also involved with sexually explicit images. In most cases, the children took the pictures of themselves.
"The numbers are dependent on the type of questions involved," Mitchell said. "What was the activity in the image? We're seeing kids in bathing suits, and some kids we surveyed considered that as 'nude' or 'nearly nude.' As parents, you might be concerned. Police are going to be more concerned about sexually explicit images."
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