Sexting: Child Porn, Exploitation and Human Trafficking

Sexting is the sending of sexually explicit digital images, videos, text messages, or emails, usually by cell phone.


Just over 40% of Canadian youth age 16-24, have sent one or more “sexts”

Display of cell phone screen with sexting text

Why Are Kids Sexting?

Sexting often originates with boys’ requests, expectations, and pressure for photos or videos from girls. Sadly as a culture, we place much of the focus on why girls respond with sexts. The boys want a challenge and bragging rights.  They have a competition amongst friends, of who can get pictures from a girl.  Girls typically sext because they are interested in boys and believe it’s a way to obtain or maintain a relationship. The boys take advantage of girls’ feelings and pressure for pictures…and pressure isn’t necessarily repeated requests.

Experts point out that we do need to teach girls to stand up for themselves, and that we have to stop putting all of the responsibility on the girls. Girls are being judged, especially by their own parents and meanwhile, they completely ignore the behavior of the boy asking for the sext.


30% of individuals who engage in sexting, admitted they had shared someone elses sext by showing it to others, forwarding it or posting it to a public forum.


42% of Canadian youth who sent “sexy or nude images”, had one shared without their consent.


A study published by JAMA Pediatrics in 2018 found that 1 in 4 teens are receiving sexually explicit texts and emails and 1 in 8 children between the ages of eleven and seventeen report either forwarding or having a sext forwarded without their consent. Sexting has become commonplace among children with 14.8% sending and 27.4% receiving sexts with those numbers growing, the older the child. These statistics are likely much higher as they found a majority do not report their sexting activity.

Dangers of sexting


Sextortion is a serious crime that occurs when someone threatens to distribute your private and sensitive material if you don’t provide them images of a sexual nature, sexual favors, or money. The perpetrator may also threaten to harm your friends or relatives by using information they have obtained from your electronic devices unless you comply with their demands.

The real problem with sexting is that once the photo or video has been sent, control of that content is now gone and the receiver gains control over the sender.

Cheryl Kosmerl, a mother, clinical social worker and child advocate explains:

Someone is telling them they’re wonderful.  Abusers and traffickers tell them everything they want to hear, and then they start to pressure for pictures over time. Once the person sends the pictures, the power dynamic is absolutely switched because they now have something they can use against that person. ‘Do what I say or I’m going to share your pictures or show your parents.’ 

Abusers can go on an app, pretend to be a certain age, and once their target shares naked pictures, they start getting nasty and mean.

One teen finally sent nudes, then they started threatening violence if she didn’t do what they said.  She got in over her head and they talked her into doing things that were illegal on her part. It got really dangerous really quickly.

 It starts online and then they rope the person into meeting them…and based on the amount of info you share online, they can come find you. Traffickers comb social media to see who is at risk.  It’s prestigious to get a virgin. That’s part of the allure to look for someone that’s younger. Traffickers look for targets based on information already provided in their social media app’s profile. I have seen a case of sexting lead to human trafficking with the abuse all done completely online by the trafficker.

It’s boys too. Boys are sex trafficked.

And what about the social media platforms?  Cheryl Kosmerl continues…

Almost nothing positive is happening on SnapChat. Inside the Snapchat server is child porn. It doesn’t disappear. TikTok is huge for human trafficking. And super alarming and starting to evolve is that kids can make money online on platforms such as Sugar You set up a PayPal online and you perform sex acts for people over Skype and video chat.

Stephanie Kunstle – The Exodus Road