In many states, sending or receiving nude photographs of an underage person is a felony, and can result in jail time and 20 years as a registered sex offender. The legal issue is less clear-cut when sexting messages are only sent from one young person to another. However, in some countries, including the United States, teenagers who have exchanged such messages have been charged with transmission or possession of child pornography.
A 2009 survey of 1,300 teens (aged 13-19) and young adults (aged 20-26) conducted by the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy found that 39% of teens and 59% of young adults had sent a sexually suggestive message online or through text. The survey also found that 20% of teens and 38% of young adults had sent nude photos.
A number of vendors offer products and services designed to deter sexting. Mobile Media Guard, for example, a service introduced by Parental Solutions, is a smartphone application that allows parents to view all images sent and received on their child’s cell phone. The company maintains a real-time record of the images on a secure website.
The term “sexting” was first introduced in 2005 by the Sunday Telegraph Magazine. The word is a portmanteau (an abbreviation that combines two words and their meanings) created from “sex” and “texting.”