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This is the VOA Special English Technology Report.
A new study shows that "sexting" is not as common among young people as earlier findings suggested. Researchers at the University of New Hampshire interviewed more than one thousand five hundred Internet users between the ages of ten and seventeen. Just two and a half percent of them said they had either sent or received naked pictures over their mobile phones or the Internet.
Earlier surveys had suggested that as many as twenty percent of teens were involved in such activities. But one problem is that some of those findings included young adults -- eighteen- and nineteen-year-olds.
Dan Rauzi is senior director for technology programs for the Boys and Girls Clubs of America. He says another problem is confusion among teenagers about what exactly "sexting" means. For example, he says suggestive images like someone in a bathing suit have sometimes been reported as sexting.
Marian Merritt is the Internet safety advocate for the computer security company Norton. She says the New Hampshire researchers considered this confusion. "They segmented the really most egregious or dangerous kinds of images people might be posting and sending from texts that might be more suggestive." Ms. Merritt says very few of the images in this latest study would have been considered illegal. "The kinds of images or videos that might constitute child pornography is very low. It's only one percent. So the good news is it's a very rare phenomenon and most young people are not engaging in these kinds of behaviors."
Everyone knows young people are early adapters of technology. Dan Rauzi say their experimentation often raises concern with adults, but also has another effect. "We get a new technology in and teens, they push that envelope and in some ways as a society help us see all of the possibilities with new technologies, as well."
The journal Pediatrics published the new study in December. In a second study, the New Hampshire researchers found that very few sexting cases investigated by police led to arrests. Marian Merritt is glad about that. "Over the last several years we've seen law enforcement across the country start to take a more modulated approach, and not going for full enforcement of, you know, a mistake - a momentary lapse in judgment from young people who don't understand the power of the images they may be sharing."