SALT LAKE CITY (ABC 4 News) - A shocking new study from the University of Utah finds teens are sending sexually explicit photos by cell phone more often than anyone previously thought. And the study finds a lot of these youngsters don't know or don't care about the consequences.
University of Utah professor of psychology Donald Strassberg published the findings. And he tells ABC 4 News that the results were so shocking they surprised everyone on his research team. He says parents of teens need to know what is happening and understand the consequences of sharing too much.
Ask anyone in high school about the sharing of explicit photos between classmates and you will hear first hand accounts about it.
Andy: "My friend showed me a couple of pictures of girls that went to my school."
Don Hudson: "And they were naked?"
Don Hudson: "What have you seen?"
Claire: "Just in classes people will say have you seen this?"
And Dr. Strassberg says were are not talking about revealing, bikini or underwear photos."Were talking about naked body parts. Parts you don't normally expose in public or could get in trouble for if you expose them in public."
And he says his research found that this technology trend is going on a lot more than most previously thought - especially among high school seniors. "About 50% of the girls and 65% of boys had received such a picture." Dr. Strassberg adds that picture sharing is nothing short of prevalent. "I would imagine most school administrators and parents would be surprised."
Teens we spoke with in Salt Lake City were not surprised by the overall numbers. And here are the numbers: 20 percent of high schoolers admit they have sent an explicit photo, 25 percent admit they have forwarded a photo and 30 percent of girls and 50 percent of boys say they have received an explicit photo. While not surprised at the numbers, the teens told us there were surprised by the content of the photos they've seen themselves or heard about.
Everardo: "Completely full on naked pictures."
Dr. Strassburg says teens are doing this without understanding the legal consequences of taking and sharing nude images of minors. "Depending on the jurisdiction where you live, teens run the risk of being put on the sex offender registry. The same list as child molesters and rapists."
And then there are the interpersonal consequences. 16-year-old Sierra Stone says she has heard about the explicit photo and has heard about how some teens regret it later on. "You will hear things like so and so sent so and so a nude picture and they regret it now."
Dr. Strassberg says based on his findings there is a lot of regret going on today. He hopes the numbers will get out to the public. "I think its really important that parents, school administrators, even law enforcement and legislators here how prevalent this behavior is." And he hopes they will take the numbers and talk to teens and create laws that don't treat them like sex offenders.