However, while technically accurate, the 2.5% figure is actually rather misleading.As seen in Table 1 of their publication, Mitchell et al.
In addition, of those who had sent a sexually explicit picture, over a third had done so despite believing that there could be serious legal and other consequences if they got caught.
Students who had sent a picture by cell phone were more likely than others to find the activity acceptable. note: "The news-worthiness of [the University of New Hampshire study] derives from [their] figure [2.5%] being far below (by a factor of 5 or more) the prevalence rates reported in the previous surveys.
A widely cited 2011 study indicated the previously reported prevalence was exaggerated.
Researchers at the University of New Hampshire surveyed 1,560 children and caregivers, reporting that only 2.5 percent of respondents had sent, received or created sexual pictures distributed via cell phone in the previous year.
The study had a small sample size, so more research needs to be done surrounding sexting and motivation, but it is clear that sexting is a phenomenon that is not constrained to simply unattached individuals looking for fun; it is used by those in intimate relationships to increase feelings of intimacy and closeness one's partner.
For teens, sexting can also act as a prelude (or in lieu of) sexual activity, as an experimental phase for those who are yet to be sexually active, and for those who are hoping to start a relationship with someone.Kik and Whats App appeal to teens because of the anonymity of the applications.Snapchat appeals to teens because it allows users to send photos for a maximum of ten seconds before they self-destruct.Those sending photos over Snapchat believe they will disappear without consequences so they feel more secure about sending them.There have been several cases where teens have sent photos over these applications, expecting them to disappear or be seen by the recipient only, yet are saved and distributed, carrying social and legal implications.In a 2008 survey of 1,280 teenagers and young adults of both sexes sponsored by The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, 20% of teens (13-20) and 33% of young adults (20-26) had sent nude or semi-nude photographs of themselves electronically.