Teens using sexting within a romantic relationship, as a way of flirting or to get attention from peers can still get into trouble, with an 18 percent arrest rate for "non-aggravated, youth-only" sexting.
For the most part, law enforcement officials take age and intent into account. The 10-year-old boy who sent a girl a cellphone picture of his penis to "gross her out" wasn't arrested. As for sex offender registries, the very few teens subjected had generally committed other serious offenses such as sexual assault, the study found.
Both researchers agree that kids need to better understand the implications of sexting.
"Even though numbers are low, I think it's something we need to educate youth about and tell them about the potential consequences," Mitchell said.
The Cyberbullying Research Center has more about legal issues in sexting.
SOURCES: Kimberly Mitchell, Ph.D., research associate professor, psychology, University of New Hampshire Crimes Against Children Research Center, Durham, N.H.; Shari Kessel Schneider, M.S.P.H., senior research associate, Education Development Center, Newton, Mass.; January 2012, Pediatrics
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