Surveys on Teens Texting and Consequences for Sexting


Photo by Summer Skyes 11.

3.27.12 | A recent Pew Internet survey found that the the median teen (age 12-17) text user sends 60 texts per day, an increase from 50 texts per day in 2009.

Older teens ages 14-17 accounted for much of the increase, having gone from a median of 60 texts a day to a median of 100 two years later. Boys of all ages are texting more—up from 30 texts daily in 2009 to 50 texts in 2011. And black teens showed an increase of a median of 60 texts per day to 80.

But older girls remain the most enthusiastic texters—they had a median of 100 texts a day in 2011, compared with 50 for boys the same age.

Some adults tend to be alarmed by numbers like these, but it’s important to remember that 60 texts is not equivalent to communicating with 60 people, and the quick back-and-forth communication may take up little time.

The survey also found that 63 percent of all teens text daily, exceeding all other daily communication. Only 39 percent use their cell phones to make phone calls every day (interestingly, the survey also shows that the heaviest texters are also the heaviest talkers); 35 percent socialize face-to-face outside of school; 29 percent use site messaging on a social network; 22 percent use instant messaging; 19 percent talk on landlines; and a mere 6 percent use email daily—perhaps signalling widespread changes in work communication methods in the years ahead.

“[I]t also shows that we all have a lot more options to choose from – for matching communication mode to our intention for communicating (and what device is at hand) at any given moment,” writes Anne Collier of

“I’d like to see more research on why teens love texting so much,” she adds, “but most parents have their hunches: that it’s basically silent, so it allows for privacy, and texting conversations can happen virtually anywhere without anyone around know what’s being said. There’s nothing inherently negative about that, unless we choose to make it so.”

Though 77 percent of those ages 12-17 have a cell phone, the percentage of younger teens ages 12 and 13 with cell phones has declined since 2009—from 66 percent in 2009 to 57 percent in 2011.

Plus: A new survey on attitudes toward teens sexting—sending sexually explicit, nude, or semi-nude photos by cell phone—shows that an overwhelming majority of adults support education instead of legal consequences for teens involved in sexting.


Navigating the Digital World Takes Kids, Parents and a Supportive Village - a sexting incident among middle-schoolers in Washington state sparks discussions about ethics and the legal issues involved.

The University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health asked adults in the United States about youth sexting and sexting legislation. Eighty-one percent of adults said an educational program or counseling is an appropriate consequence for teens who sext; 75 percent support requiring community service for sexting teens.

Less than half, 44 percent, support fines less than $500 for youth sexting, while 20 percent or fewer think that sexting should be treated as a sex crime, or that teens who sext should be prosecuted under sexual abuse laws.

“Across the country, the public supports requiring schools to distribute information about sexting to students and parents,” said Matthew M. Davis, director of the C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health. “Child advocacy organizations could assist in this effort by developing clear educational information that is appropriate for students of different ages.”

Laws to address youth sexting are in effect in 17 states. Another 13 states have pending legislation focusing on sexting.

In New Jersey, a new law on sexting goes into effect April 1. First-time offenders will be provided an educational program rather than criminal punishment. School officials in that state are holding meetings, such as this one in Deptford, to give students and parents the opportunity to learn more about the new law, along with related topics on privacy, social media and cyberbullying.

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