Crimes against Children Research Center
Sexting: a Typology
by Janis Wolak & David Finkelhor

Summary: This bulletin presents a typology of sexting episodes based on a review of over 500 cases obtained from a national survey of law enforcement agencies. The cases all involved "youth-produced sexual images," defined as images of minors created by minors that could qualify as child pornography under applicable criminal statutes. The episodes could be broadly divided into two categories, which we termed 'Aggravated' and 'Experimental'. Aggravated incidents involved criminal or abusive elements beyond the creation, sending or possession of youth-produced sexual images. These additional elements included 1) adult involvement; or 2) criminal or abusive behavior by minors such as sexual abuse, extortion, threats; malicious conduct arising from interpersonal conflicts; or creation or sending or showing of images without the knowledge or against the will of a minor who was pictured. In experimental incidents, by contrast, youth took pictures of themselves to send to established boy- or girlfriends, to create romantic interest in other youth, or for reasons such as attention-seeking, but there was no criminal behavior beyond the creation or sending of images, no apparent malice and no lack of willing participation by youth who were pictured.
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