An omnibus survey was conducted regarding awareness, perceptions and concerns on the topic of “sexting” among parents of teenagers (13-18). The online survey used the field services of TNS Global. The study reached a nationally representative sample of 2,500 American adults 18+. Out of the total sample, 416 respondents are parents of teens 13-18. The findings enclosed in this report focus on these parents.
II. Key Findings:
- IN THE DARK - While most are aware, a third of parents of teens 13-18 are in the dark about sexting, reporting that they are not aware or are unsure of the practice. However, awareness is key…parents who are aware of sexting are more likely to talk to their teens about it, are more aware of the legal consequences, as well as the potential dangers associated with sexting, like sexting leading to cyberbullying.
- NOT MY CHILD - Although they are aware of the practice, two-thirds of parents do not think that their teens have engaged in any sexting or cyberbullying activities. Only one in ten believes their teen is sending or receiving sexts. Fewer believe their teens are cyberbullying or being cyberbullied.
- WORRIED ENOUGH TO TALK - Seven out of ten American parents believe there are legal consequences to their teens sexting. Another six in ten are worried sexting will lead to cyberbullying. This concern has led the majority of parents to speak to their 13-18 year old about sexting.
A third of parents of teens in the dark about sexting
While two-thirds of parents of teens (69%) are aware of the practice of sexting, 31% are not aware or are unsure. This level of awareness was shared by parents of 13-15 year olds vs. parents of 15-17 year olds, as well as mothers and fathers alike.
Not my kid…
While a majority of parents of teens report being aware of the practice of sexting, few believe their children are taking part.
Fully 64% of the parents surveyed do not think that their teens have ever engaged in any sexting or bullying activities.
- Only 15% of parents believe that their teens have received sext messages, while 12% of parents believe that their teens have sent sext messages.
- Parents of 13-15 year olds reported the same level of sexting by their teens as parents of 16-18 (receiving 13% vs. 16%, sending 9% vs. 10%).
- Further, parents of teen boys 13-18 reported the same level of sexting by their teens as parents of teen girls (receiving 17% vs. 12%, sending 10% vs. 8%).
- Understandably, parents who have talked to their teen about sexting are more likely than parents who have not to know that their teens have sent sext messages (15% vs. 6%) or received sext messages (19% vs. 7%).
- Only one in ten parents (8%) believe that their teens have been cyberbullied, while fewer parents believe that their teens have cyberbullied others (4%).
- Interestingly, one in ten parents admit that they do not know if their teens have been engaged in any sexting or cyberbullying activities (11%).
- These findings suggest that parents’ perceptions of sexting are not far from reality: about one in five teens 13-18 sext, according to the COX study.
Attitudes and Concerns around Sexting
Most American parents believe that there are legal consequences if teens are caught sexting, they worry about what it leads to and say they have talked to their teens about it.
Almost three quarters of parents (71%) believe that there are legal consequences if teens are caught sexting, while just over a quarter do not (29%).
- A majority of parents (61%) worry that sexting will lead to cyberbullying among teens and about the same number of parents (59%) say they have talked to their 13-18 year old teen about sexting.
- Parents who have teens that have been cyberbullied are more likely than their counterparts with teens who have not been cyberbullied to agree that sexting leads to cyberbullying (77% vs. 59%). The same belief that sexting leads to cyberbullying is more often held by parents who believe that there are legal consequences associated with sexting compared to parents who do not (73% vs. 35%).
- Parents who are aware of sexting are more likely to talk about it with their teens than their counterparts who are unaware of sexting (70% vs. 35%).
- Not surprisingly, parents that are aware of sexting are also more likely to be aware of the legal consequences associated with sexting than parents who are not aware (79% vs. 54%).
- A minority of American parents (15%) admit that they don’t understand the potential dangers associated with sexting, while 69% think they do understand.
- Mothers are more likely than fathers to admit that they don’t understand the potential dangers associated with sexting. (74% vs. 65%).
- Parents with teens that have sent sexts are more likely than parents with teens that have received sexts to understand the potential dangers associated with texting (39% vs. 20%). Parents with teens that have been cyberbullied are more likely to understand the dangers associated with sexting than their counterparts with teens that have never been cyberbullied (47% vs. 11%).
- Not surprisingly, parents are more aware than teens regarding the legal consequences of getting caught sexting. A recent COX study indicates that more than half of teens (55%) believe that there are legal consequences if caught sending nude or nearly nude or sexually suggestive photos.