Teenagers, sexting, and the law

Victor C. Strasburger, Harry Zimmerman, Jeff R. Temple, Sheri Madigan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

42 Scopus citations


The phenomenon of teen sexting emerged as a result of the proliferation of digital technology. More than 40 studies have established that teen sexting occurs relatively frequently and is a rising trend, commensurate with the ubiquity of smartphone ownership in teens. Studies have shown that sexting is associated with incidences of increased sexual behavior. US state laws on sexting vary widely, from decriminalization to misdemeanor charges or prosecution for child pornography with harsh sentences. Teen behavior and digital invention have outpaced the development of new laws, and this has the potential to have dire legal ramifications for teens. Separating consensual sexting from nonconsensual sexting and actual child pornography is a critical next step for law enforcement agencies and policy makers to catch up to technology. In this article, we argue that consensual teen-to-teen sexting does not warrant law enforcement involvement but rather is a health and education issue that is better addressed at home, in schools, and in primary care.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberY
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2019

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health


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