Across the U.S., sexting has quickly become a prominent health concern for teens. As a result, there has been a high degree of legislative activity at the state level to address threats that sexting presents to children’s well-being.
The most recent report from the National Poll on Children’s Health covered the public opinion regarding current and proposed youth sexting legislation. 81% of adults support education and counseling programs for teens who sext and 75% think teens who sext should be required to perform community service.
In contrast, public support is very limited for penalties through the legal system, such as fines or criminal prosecution. It appears that the public distinguishes youth sexting from child pornography or other criminal sexual behaviors. Only 20% of adults or less believe sexting should be treated as a sex crime and that teens who sext should be prosecuted under sexual abuse laws.
The public also broadly supports the idea of requiring schools to distribute information about sexting to students and parents, with 76% of adults supporting this requirement. Since adults strongly feel that parents should play a major role in addressing sexting, this is a great opportunity for parents and schools to work together on this issue. Child advocacy organizations could assist in this effort by developing clear educational information that is appropriate for students of different ages.