It turns out teens today are not -- I repeat, not -- going to hell in a hand-basket. Or, at least, far fewer of them than expected are headed there for the sin of "sexting," according to a new survey. The Pew Research Center conducted a phone and paper survey of 800 teenagers and found that only 4 percent report having sent "sexually suggestive nude or nearly nude images" to someone via text message, and 15 percent have received X-rated cellphone snapshots.
Compare that to an online survey published earlier this year by CosmoGirl.com and the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy which found that 20 percent of teens have "sexted." At the time, I wrote about the research and noted that although voluntary polls tend to be self-selecting, "the results seem obvious, maybe even understated" -- because, hey, I still vividly remember what it was like being post-pubescent with access to the Internet and all manner of new technology. According to the Pew study, though, teenagers must be far less pervy and far more well-behaved than they were back in my day.
Well, that or they aren't relying on their cellphones to conduct their naughty business. Remember, the study only takes into account sex and cellphones, which leaves out e-mail, MySpace, Facebook, chat rooms and -- the list goes on. Plus, the study was conducted in late summer and early fall of this year, well after "sexting" hysteria in the media had reached its peak. Considering the extent of parental handwringing and the number of high-profile cases of kids being charged as sex offenders for sending explicit texts, they would have been smart to find another outlet -- and teenagers are nothing if not smart about findings ways to do what they want without adults finding out.