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Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Sexting on decline, but it's still on UF’s mind

Sexting and digital abuse among teenagers and young people has declined.

The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research and MTV recently released a study concluding that 49 percent of the 1,297 people sampled had experienced at least one type of digital abuse. This contrasted with 56 percent in 2011.

But UF social psychologist Gregory Webster said that after reviewing the survey, there may have been errors in the sample.

He said the sample does not reflect the true population, and the decline is not significant.

“Those declines are within the margin of error,” Webster said.

Although the survey is valid, he said, the results are not dramatically different from the 2011 results.

But he said sexting and digital abuse are still problems. With apps like Snapchat that allow easy photo sharing and websites that allow the ability to tag people in pictures, young people forget to consider the long-term effects of inappropriate photos.

“People underestimate the permanence of the Internet,” Webster said.

Digital abuse included writing mean or untrue messages on people’s Internet pages or looking at people’s text messages without their permission.

Sexting among teens and young people has also declined, according to the survey. In 2013, 26 percent had sexted compared to 32 percent in 2011.

The survey examined people ages 14 to 24.

UF sociology lecturer Sophia Krzys Acord said Internet users often view their offline lives as separate from their online profiles, and young adults are not fully aware of the consequences of inappropriate photo sharing.

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“It can come back to bite us,” she said.

Jennifer Klein, a UF doctoral candidate of criminology, said sexting can have serious legal consequences.

She said if an adult engages in sexting with a minor, the adult could face child pornography charges.

She said Florida and some other states have begun to enact more lenient disciplinary measures toward minors. The first offense may not even land a misdemeanor, but the second could and the third could mean a felony charge.

Jenna Bilodeau, a 20-year-old UF neurobiological sciences and microbiology and cell science junior, said she thinks people could be haunted by bad photos for the rest of their lives.

She said after a high school friend was the victim of revenge porn — posting explicit photos online as a way to humiliate someone — she thinks young people should be more conscious of their online actions.

A decline in sexting might be attributed to increased awareness, Bilodeau said.

“People realize that it has such an impact later on in life,” she said.

A version of this story ran on page 4 on 11/6/2013 under the headline "Sexting on decline, but it's still on UF’s mind"

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