Sexting — get the facts right!

This article from a smaller Minnesota paper highlights the same sexting research that all other news stories cover. However, I am calling this one out because of the inaccuracies of its reporting.

For example, the article quotes the following statistics:

  • One in five teen girls ages 13 to 16 say they have electronically sent or posted nude or semi-nude photos of themselves online
  • 33 percent of teenage boys ages 13 to 16 and 25 percent of teenage girls have had nude or semi-nude images – that were meant to be private – shared with them

Looking more closely at the survey itself, the numbers in this article are flat-out misreported. According to the actual report, 11% of 13-16 year-old girls have electronically sent or posted nude or semi-nude photos of themselves online. I can’t find within the report the parallel number for boys, but for all teen boys, the rate is 18% (compared to 22% of all teen girls, not just the younger ones).

The 33% of boys and 25% of girls who are sharing pictures is for all teens, aged 13-19, not for those aged 13-16. I could not find a separate statistic for the younger teens.

So, once again, news trumps accuracy in its attempts to send readers into panics. While I am not saying that the true numbers are to be ignored, I am saying that honest reporting of the issue would be a helpful step towards framing our approach to working constructively with youth to encourage safe and smart technology use.

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