Pediatrics Volume: 129 Issue: 1 Dated: January 2012 Pages: 4-12
This study examined characteristics of police-investigated youth sexting cases and the police response to these cases.
Findings from the study include the following: during 2008 and 2009, there were approximately 3,477 youth sexting cases handled by law enforcement agencies across the country; an adult was involved in 36 percent of the sexting cases investigated by police, while in 31 percent of the cases a minor engaged in malicious, non-consensual, or abusive behavior; police made an arrest in 62 percent of the cases in which an adult was involved, in 36 percent of youth-only cases involving abusive behavior, and in 18 percent of cases experimental cases in which only youth were involved and there were no aggravating or abusive behaviors; and 63 percent of the images created in sexting cases were distributed by cell phone only and never reached the Internet. This study examined characteristics of police-investigated cases of youth sexting and the police response to these cases. Data for the study were obtained from a national survey of 2,712 law enforcement agencies with detailed questions about sexting cases handled by police during 2008 and 2009 (n=675). The cases investigated by the police involved "youth-produced sexual images" that were considered child pornography under relevant State statutes. The cases were divided into two categories: aggravated cases that involved additional criminal or abusive elements to the images, and experimental cases that did not involve adults or contain any intent to harm or reckless misuse. The findings indicate that youth sexting is a diverse phenomenon in which some cases involve adults and serious criminal dynamics while other cases are better characterized as adolescent sexual experimentation and attention-seeking. Many of the cases investigated by the police included aggravating circumstances that led to arrest and prosecution for the offenders. Policy issues of concern to law enforcement are discussed. Figures, tables, appendix, and references
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