Snapchat Fueled the Explosion of Sexting, Study Says
Sexting is growing among children in the United States, particularly as more of them use smartphones, according to new research.
Over the past decade, researchers studied more than 110,000 youths between the ages of 12 and 18, according to JAMA Pediatrics, a leading medical journal that publishes the latest clinical studies. The research, which was evenly split between boys and girls, looked at sexts that were sent, received, forwarded without consent and received without consent.
The prevalence of sexting — "sharing of sexually explicit images, videos, or messages through electronic means" — has increased in recent years as youths age and smartphone use increases, researchers said.
"The increase ... with age is commensurate with older youth having greater access to and/or owning smartphones compared with younger youth," researchers wrote.
The increased popularity of Snapchat — a smartphone app that deletes photos after 10 seconds — led to an expanded rate of sexting. The website Tech Junkie reports that originally it was teens who used the app for sexting, but now people of all ages use it. And, Tech Junkie warns, photos can be saved, even without the sender's knowledge.
"Perform a quick internet search for 'save Snapchat pics' or words to that effect, and you will see a few hundred websites purporting to show you how to keep snaps you are sent," stated an April 2017 blog. "Some will even show you how to do it without notifying the sender that you are saving the snap. That alone should send alarm bells ringing."
More studies needed
Researchers noted that the smaller studies contributing to the meta-analysis of the more than 110,000 children do not offer specific, consistent details about who is sexting when, only that it has increased over time and with the proliferation of smartphones. Delving further into the practice of sexting is needed for health care professionals to respond appropriately, they said.
"Media portrayals of sexting often implicate adolescent girls as the senders of naked photographs and adolescent boys as the requesters," researchers stated. "However, this popular belief and [data] were not supported by the present meta-analysis, which found no significant sex differences in the rate of sending or receiving sexts."
The earlier studies concluded that the percentage of tweens — or pre-adolescents — and teens who are sexting ranges "from 1.3 percent to 60 percent. The extent to which health care professionals, school personnel, policymakers, and parents should be concerned about this behavior is unknown." The meta-analysis narrowed that down to between 14.8 percent and 27.4 percent sexting among 12- to 18-year-olds.
Younger teens "may be particularly vulnerable to sextortion [nude images and/or videos used as a form of threat or blackmail]," researchers said, "and may be at risk for a host of risky behaviors and negative consequences."
"Further research focusing on nonconsensual sexting is necessary to appropriately target and inform intervention, education, and policy efforts," the team wrote.
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Biden Cancels Federal Student Loans for Nearly 153,000 Borrowers
President Joe Biden said Wednesday that while a college degree was still a ticket to a better life, that ticket is often too expensive, as he announced he was canceling federal student loans for nearly 153,000 borrowers.
Biden, who is in the midst of a three-day campaign swing through California, made the announcement as part of a new repayment plan that offers a faster path to forgiveness, putting the spotlight on his debt cancellation efforts in his reelection campaign.
"Too many Americans are still saddled with unsustainable debt in exchange for a college degree," he said from a local library before he went on to campaign-related events. Loan relief helps the greater economy, he said, because "when people have a student debt relief, they buy homes. They start businesses, they contribute. They engage."
The administration began sending email notifications on Wednesday to some of the borrowers who will benefit from what the White House has called the SAVE program. The cancellations were originally scheduled to start in July, but last month the administration said it would be ready almost six months ahead of schedule, in February.
"Starting today, the first round of folks who are enrolled in our SAVE student loan repayment plan who have paid their loans for 10 years and borrowed $12,000 or less will have their debt cancelled," Biden posted on social media Wednesday. "That's 150,000 Americans and counting. And we're pushing to relieve more."
The first round of forgiveness from the SAVE plan will clear $1.2 billion in loans. The borrowers will get emails with a message from Biden notifying them that "all or a portion of your federal student loans will be forgiven because you qualify for early loan forgiveness under my Administration's SAVE Plan."
In his email to borrowers, Biden wrote he had heard from "countless people who have told me that relieving the burden of their student loan debt will allow them to support themselves and their families, buy their first home, start a small business, and move forward with life plans they've put on hold."
More than 7.5 million people have enrolled in the new repayment plan.
He said Wednesday that it was the kind of relief "that can be life-changing for individuals and their families."
"I'm proud to have been able to give borrowers like so many of you the relief you earned," he said, asking the crowd gathered for his speech how many had debt forgiven. Many raised their hands.
Borrowers are eligible for cancellation if they are enrolled in the SAVE plan, originally borrowed $12,000 or less to attend college and have made at least 10 years of payments. Those who took out more than $12,000 will be eligible for cancellation but on a longer timeline. For each $1,000 borrowed beyond $12,000, it adds an additional year of payments on top of 10 years.
The maximum repayment period is capped at 20 years for those with only undergraduate loans and 25 years for those with any graduate school loans.
Biden announced the new repayment plan last year alongside a separate plan to cancel up to $20,000 in loans for millions of Americans. The Supreme Court struck down his plan for widespread forgiveness, but the repayment plan has so far escaped that level of legal scrutiny. Unlike his proposal for mass cancellation — which had never been done before — the repayment plan is a twist on existing income-based plans created by Congress more than a decade ago.
Biden said he remained steadfast in his commitment to "fix our broken student loan system," working around the court's ruling to find other ways to get it done.
This College Student’s Acceptance Letter Came With a Marching Band
Alejandro Marroquin, 17, was surprised one morning by a full marching band outside his home, carrying a letter admitting him to the University of Maryland. Read the story from Emily Davies of The Washington Post. (January 2024)