The act of sexting, a play on the technology word of texting, involves the transmission or sending of data that involves some sort of sexual communication, frequently sent through a mobile device such as a phone or a tablet. The data can be in the form of text, a digital image, or even a video. Whichever the case, the sender is intentionally sending the message as a sexual communication to the recipient. This is called Sexting.
The nature of this sort of communication first became widespread in knowledge in 2005, predominantly appearing in countries where smartphones and digital phones were widespread as in the U.S., England, Canada and Australia. Within three years one out of five teens and one out of three young adults admitted to transmitting some kind of sexual communication with a mobile device. That said, other studies have disputed this widespread behavior, unable to confirm the same behavior in their own examinations. So there remains some debate with regards to have prevalent sexting is or whether it is more overblown hype by the media.
Aside from the disturbing nature of sexting among teens and the sharing of private sexual information that could easily be hacked or end up in the wrong hands, this trend also has a growing number of legal ramifications.
First off, the transmission of any kind of digital image, whether it be a photo or a movie, of the sexual or nude image of an underage person can be considered the transmission of underage pornography which is a crime in all 50 states. Anyone found to have transmitted such information or having stored the information on a device as an adult can be considered a target for prosecution. Second, federal criminal laws also restrict and ban the transmission of underage pornography across state lines, so a transmission can also trigger federal criminal penalties as well, depending where it is sent. The fact that these criminal laws exist pose serious risks for young adults communicating with teens sexually, which does occur despite the parties knowing better in most cases.
Second, once images and digital information are recorded and sent to other parties, the subject of the information can’t control them. The information and images can end up just about anywhere, being posted anywhere on the Internet. This loss of privacy control is common and, despite how often it occurs, people and teens still engage in this behavior, thinking the problems won’t happen to them.
Where It Occurs
Sexting often occurs the most often within a relationship between two people, sharing private information between each and using a digital device to do so for contact over distance. Cell phones or tablets allow partners to connect with each other, especially when in different locations, giving the false feeling of being close through virtual space.
In the majority of cases, sexting is not forced. Partners choose to engage in the practice on their own, feeling it’s a way of sharing privately with each other similar to if they were face to face.
While sexting may seem exciting and exhilarating when it is happening between trusted partners, the mental effects of the practice can quickly change when that trust is broken.
As soon as a person becomes exposed, serious mental effects can occur. Depression, fear, anxiety, anger and stress can occur, especially when a person becomes aware that the sexting information involving his or her privacy has been shared to a larger population. In some cases, the reaction has been so bad that the victim has resorted to suicide to stop the pain being felt.
People involved in sharing this sort of data of minors can also find themselves being destroyed by the legal process, often facing criminal charges for the transmitting illegal images of a minor. The resulting punishments can be mean years in prison as well as a long-term inability to get back on track with life. In many cases convicted parties are also labeled legally as sex offenders, requiring ongoing reporting to police departments after being released from prison.
Sexting is a dangerous practice for a teen or young person to get into to begin with. While it may seem fun and a neat, modern way to share privacy with a partner, the digital record can easily be lost. When trust is broken, a person loses control, and the effects can be devastating both mentally and socially. While sharing sexually is a normal, human behavior, doing so digitally should be avoided. It has a bad way of coming back in the wrong way, and things that get into the Internet never really disappear.