The pressure teens face when it comes to sexting each other

By  | 

MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - As law enforcement continues to investigate a nude photo sharing scandal at Middleton High School, NBC 15 News is looking into the pressures teens face when texting and using social media.

NBC 15 News sits down with an educational specialist and an educational psychology professor to talk about the pressures teens face when it comes to sexting.

Many parents who contacted the NBC 15 newsroom said that some teens shared photos willingly, while others felt pressured to participate.

"I think a lot of kids don't actually realize that what they're doing is illegal," Rape Crisis Center Educational Specialist Brianna Breunig said.

Breunig says she sees this kind of issue all over Dane County. She goes into classrooms throughout the Madison area and speaks to kids about relationship violence and abuse.

Sexting is one topic is also covers.

"I always ask kids about the types of behaviors that they see in school and almost everyone is sexting, sending and asking for nudes,” Breunig said. “One of the questions that I ask Is do you guys send and receive nudes and I tell them not to share any names, almost every single kid raises their hand in every classroom."

"I think it's important for us to realize that this behavior is unusual,” University of Wisconsin-Madison Educational Psychology Professor Bradford Brown said.

Brown said research out of UW-Madison paints a different picture. Studies show while teens do face pressure to send nude photos, sexting is not actually that common.

"Only about a quarter of high school students indicate that they have received a sext message and only about one in seven indicate that they have sent this kind of message to somebody," Brown said.

However, Brown said teens who are dating are more likely engage in this kind of behavior with their boyfriend or girlfriend.

"Dangers come when somebody decides to share such a photo without informing the person who's in the photo, or getting their permission to do so," Brown said.

That's why Breunig teaches kids to think twice, before breaking the law.

"When you take away somebody's voice and autonomy and agency of their own body, it's really damaging and that needs to be communicated to them."

Professor Brown added that teenagers understand the difference between right and wrong, but sometimes, they're more focused on what the immediate reward would be for receiving or sending a nude photo than the long-term consequences.