Spin Cycle

12.05.11

Puncturing the Sexting Myth

How many kids have been doing what the media said they were doing? Not so many, it turns out.

So it turns out that fewer than 10 percent of kids have engaged in sexting.

But maybe half the news stories about teens have been about them sending salacious pictures back and forth.

Oops. Our bad.

Another phony media trend, blown to smithereens.

A new study out Monday in the journal Pediatrics surveyed 1,560 kids aged 10 to 17. And it turns out only 1 in 100 has sent sexually suggestive images.

Now there are several possibilities here.

The other 90 percent could be lying.

The explosion of sexting could occur among 18-, 19- and 20-year-olds.

Or the news business could have taken a few cases and hyped the hell out of them.

I vote for the latter.

Come on, it’s irresistible. Every parent is worried about what their kids are doing online or on their cellphones. It involves sex. It taps into deep-seated fears that we’ve become a promiscuous, Anthony Weiner culture, our young ones corrupted or pressured into sending out naked pix of themselves. In television terms, it’s a great tease for an upcoming segment--complete with partially obscured shots of young girls.

But as with so many Scary Trend stories, it seems to have been inflated like a giant hot-air balloon.

I’m not saying sexting among minors is no problem at all, and this study may not be definitive.

But I doubt the Pediatrics report will get a fraction of the coverage generated by the earlier alarmist stories. How many clicks are there in a headline that says Teens Not In Danger, Sexting Fears Overblown?