10 Year Old Tweens Are Sexting, Study Reports
A small study released today from research group AK Tweens shows that girls as young as 10 years old involved in sexting, the sending and receiving of sexual messages and photos, just as 20% of their older peers are known to do. In the report, which combines reporting of both racy text messages and the more serious issue of sexually explicit and nude imagery, 30% of the respondents have already engaged in the practice. It's enough to make us all want to grab cell phones and computers away from our children in response!
The study was conducted among members of AllyKatzz.com, a tween-oriented social networking site. With just 300 respondents, all of whom are female and members of a particular site, it is easy to dismiss the data as representative of a special group of kids and not kids at large. Even if this were true, we still have evidence that the awareness among children of the opportunities to use cell phones, Instant Messaging, email and social networks as part of their emerging sexuality is high.
There have always been concerns about any new technology being used for inappropriate reasons. When the telegraph was introduced, people worried that the young women hired in rural areas to staff the lines would be led astray by the strangers they were communicating with. And consistently we do find that every new technology can be used in ways the designers never intended. That's why we have to look at these studies openly and see what we can learn without becoming unduly panicked by the information.
- Girls first receive sexting messages at age 10; they don't send them until age 12
- 67% of the girls have posted photos and videos online (of any kind)
- Of those on social networks (29% on MySpace; 33% on Facebook) 1/2 of them have been contacted by a stranger on those sites!
- The reasons why girls engage in these activities? 82% say it's to get attention; 66% say it's to be "cool"; 59% do it because they want to imitate the "popular" girls; and 55% say they did it to find a boyfriend.
If you now know that girls as young as 10 can imagine writing sexy text messages or are already receiving them from other kids, you need to have a discussion about how to handle those events. In the report it was mentioned that among younger tweens (ages 10-12) they are still willing to tell a parent if something happens to upset them when they are online. By ages 13 and up, the teens fear reporting these events to a parent because they think they will lose their cell phone or computer as a result. Use "The Talk" or whatever format works best for your family. Don't simply hand over technology without setting house rules for their use. And make sure you have clearly understood consequences for how your family will manage things if your child uses your cell phone, your computer in a way you just don't approve of.
Some of this sexual banter is a normal part of your child's development as they figure out who they are and how they will present themselves to others. Sadly when these images and messages are captured in a digital format, they can be used against your child, in ways they can hardly imagine. It's this tight connection between sexting and cyberbullying that will be the next wave of parental concern. That is, once we can get past dealing with the legal actions being taken against sexting children today.