The teenage sexting epidemic has been oversold, according to a study published online in December by the journal Pediatrics.
In a survey by the University of New Hampshire's Crimes Against Children Research Center, only 1 percent of respondents between the ages of 10 and 17 admitted to transmitting pictures of their naked buttocks, genitals, or breasts in the previous year. That result is similar to the findings of a study reported by the Pew Research Center in November but far lower than the number that fueled a wave of sext panic in 2009, when the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy claimed 20 percent of 13-to-19-year-olds had shared "nude or seminude" images of themselves.
"This has been reported as if it were something that everyone was doing," University of New Hampshire sociologist Janis Wolak, a co-author of the study, told The New York Times. "It's really not the case."
A survey of law enforcement agencies that was reported in the same issue of Pediatrics indicates that police investigated hundreds of teenagers for sexting in 2008 and 2009. The pictures were transmitted mostly via phone and seldom made it onto the Internet.