The kids these days, with their hormones and their technology: they're sexting maniacs who are sexting all the time, right? Um, not quite.
In fact, depending on how you define sexting–sending sexualized images over the phone or online–it's actually a very rare phenomenon, according to a new study.
Of 1,500 Internet users aged 10 to 17 who responded to survey questions over the phone, only 2.5 per cent of students said they appeared in or created images that involved semi-nudity or near-nudity, while only 1.3 per cent of those students said they had sent or appeared in images that could be considered child pornography, such as bare breasts or naked genitals.
"It's reassuring that it's not as prevalent as we thought in past research," lead researcher Kimberly Mitchell, from the University of New Hampshire Crimes Against Children Research Center, told ABC News.
Most of the young people surveyed said they participated in sexting either as a prank or because they were in a relationships.
When sexting is defined as sending or receiving photos of provocative poses involving no nudity or photos of someone appearing almost nude, then the number of kids participating jumps to 9.6 per cent.
That is significantly less than previous research has suggested. For instance, the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, a U.S.-based non-profit group, conducted a survey in 2009 that found 20 per cent of teens ages 13 to 19 had sexted.
Even if the number of teens participating in sexting may be lower than previously thought, young people do need to know there are potential dangers involved, Mitchell said.
"Because of the nature of technology, they can't expect it to stay with the person they send it to. It can be circulated and can be embarrassing."
The study was published in the journal Pediatrics.
Are you surprised about the study's results? Does your teen know about the dangers of technology?