A new research has revealed that four percent of American youths online have been asked to send a sexually explicit photo of themselves over the Internet.
Researchers at the University of New Hampshire's Crimes against Children Research Center have found that one in 25 youth who use the Internet got a request to send out a sexual picture of themselves during the course of the year.
This study, published in the Journal of Adolescent Health, poses a new threat for young people produced by the synthesis of digital photography and the Internet, say the authors of the study Kimberly J. Mitchell, David Finkelhor and Janis Wolak.
In an article, titled "Online Requests for Sexual Pictures from Youth: Risk Factors and Incident Characteristics," the authors point out that though very few of those surveyed actually fulfilled the requests, but with the growing rate of internet savvy youth, thousands of children may potentially be sending such pictures.
"We think most children don't fully understand the stakes here. They may just see it as rudeness or sometimes even flattery. But the making and sending of these pictures, even by youth themselves, constitutes the production and transmission of child pornography, a serious felony offense," Mitchell says.
"Youth who might send such private pictures to boyfriends or girlfriends may not recognize how easily such pictures can be launched into the infinite and irrevocable circulation of cyberspace," she adds.
The research was based on interviews with a nationally representative sample of 1,500 youth Internet users aged between 10 to 17 years. Nearly 10 percent, or 136, were asked to send photos of themselves; 65 were asked for sexual pictures.
Mitchell said those most likely to be asked for pictures were girls, black youths, those with a close online relationship and victims of previous physical and sexual abuse.
The authors suggest that it is important to rapidly educate youth about the dangers of these sexual picture requests. They emphasized on the need to understand the criminal nature of the requests and the serious pathology that may typify those doing the requesting.