INSIDE MOBILE: Sexting: Why Technology Solves Some Problems, Creates Others

The major concern over "sexting" among children has recently been all over the news. Sexting is where kids under 18 take explicit or inappropriate photos of themselves with their camera phone and then send them to their friends using Multimedia Messaging Services, an advanced multimedia version of Short Message Service. Here, Knowledge Center mobile and wireless analyst J. Gerry Purdy discusses why this sexting problem has developed and what can be done to solve it.


Short Message Service (SMS) message volumes continue to grow significantly in the United States each year. Mobile subscribers sent and received more than 900 billion SMS messages in 2008. This is an increase of 132 percent over the 2007 SMS volumes. SMS penetration also increased from 45 percent to 53 percent in 2008. Multimedia Messaging Service (MMS) message volumes increased from less than 15 billion in 2007 to approximately 32 billion in 2008-more than a 120 percent increase. SMS and MMS traffic are expected to grow even more in the coming years.

With the continued growth of this technology comes the rising misuse of it. This is where the problem of "sexting" comes in. In sexting, the child who sends inappropriate pictures to their friends via their camera phone ends up being both the perpetrator and the victim of child pornography. They are a self-victim since the photos are of themselves and they are the perpetrator since they used the Internet to send explicit or inappropriate photos of a minor. Some teens have been arrested for promoting child pornography over sexting. Clearly, some things are wrong here. But, things like this have happened before. Here's the story.

If you look back at the turn of the last century, around 1900, most traffic in transportation in major cities was achieved via horse and buggy. The dirt streets became muddy and filthy at the same time. It was a mess. The development of asphalt eliminated the muddy ruts in the roads, and the development of the automobile made transportation cleaner and faster. But, in less than 50 years, major freeway traffic jams developed in most American cities. We are still dealing with them today.

The horse and buggy "clogged muddy road" era was replaced with the "clogged freeway at rush hour" era. New technologies (paved roads and automobiles) made it easy for anyone to travel just about anywhere in the United States in one tenth of the time. But it also created new problems of traffic congestion and pollution that couldn't have been predicted 100 years earlier.