Sexting was reported as early as 2005 in the Sunday Telegraph Magazine, and has since been described as taking place worldwide. It has been reported in the U.K., Australia, New Zealand, the U.S., and Canada.
In a 2008 survey of 1,280 teenagers and young adults of both sexes on Cosmogirl.com sponsored by The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, 20% of teens (13-19) and 33% of young adults (20-26) had sent nude or semi-nude photographs of themselves electronically. Additionally, 39% of teens and 59% of young adults had sent sexually explicit text messages. A sociologist at Colorado College interviewed 80 children and believes this claim is overblown; she claims "I had them go through their last ten messages, their last ten photos and I never saw it."
A 2009 UK survey of 2,094 teens aged 11 to 18 found that 38% had received an "offensive or distressing" sexual image via text or email.
Sexting is a result of advances in technology enabling new forms of social interaction. Messages with sexual content have been exchanged over all forms of historical media. Newer technology allows photographs and videos, which are intrinsically more explicit and have greater impact. A social danger with sexting is that material can be very easily and widely promulgated, over which the originator has no control.
The Institute for Responsible Online and Cell-Phone Communication (I.R.O.C.2) is a New Jersey based 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to educating communities about proactively protecting themselves online with digital responsibility through their "Sexting is Stupid" program..
In 2007, 32 Australian teenagers from the state of Victoria were prosecuted as a result of sexting activity. Child pornography charges were brought against six teenagers in Greensburg, Pennsylvania in January 2009 after three girls sent sexually explicit photographs to three male classmates.
In 2008, a Virginia assistant principal was charged with possession of child pornography and related crimes after he had been asked to investigate a rumored sexting incident at the high school where he worked. Upon finding a student in possession of a photo on his phone that depicted the torso of a girl wearing only underpants, her arms mostly covering her breasts, the assistant principal showed the image to the principal who instructed him to preserve the photo on his computer as evidence, which he did. The court later ruled that the photo did not constitute child pornography because under Virginia law, nudity alone is not enough to qualify an image as child pornography; the image must be "sexually explicit". Loudoun County prosecutor James Plowman stands by his initial assessment of the photo and says he would not have pursued the case if the assistant principal had agreed to resign. The assistant principal had to get a second mortgage on his house and spend $150,000 in attorneys' fees to clear his name.
In Fort Wayne, Indiana, a teenage boy was indicted on felony obscenity charges for allegedly sending a photo of his genitals to several female classmates. Another boy was charged with child pornography in a similar case.
Police investigated an incident at Margaretta High School in Castalia, Ohio in which a 17-year-old area girl allegedly sent nude pictures of herself to her former boyfriend, and the pictures started circulating around the high school after the two got into a fight. The 17-year-old girl was charged with being an "unruly child" based on her juvenile status.
Two southwest Ohio teenagers were charged with contributing to the delinquency of a minor, a first-degree misdemeanor, for sending or possessing nude photos on their cell phones of two 15-year-old classmates.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania filed a lawsuit against Wyoming County district attorney George Skumanick Jr. on March 25, 2009 for threatening teenage girls who were the subject of allegedly risque photos with prosecution on child pornography charges if they did not submit to a counseling program. The case is Miller, et al. v. Skumanick. On CBS News's The Early Show, Skumanick stated in an interview with Julie Chen that his office decided to make an offer of limiting penalties to probation if they attend a sexual harassment program. The girls and their parents won a ruling that blocked the district attorney, who appealed. It is the first appeals court case concerning sexting.
Vermont lawmakers introduced a bill in April 2009 to legalize the consensual exchange of graphic images between two people 13 to 18 years old. Passing along such images to others would remain a crime.
In Ohio, a county prosecutor and two lawmakers proposed a law that would reduce sexting from a felony to a first degree misdemeanor, and eliminate the possibility of a teenage offender being labeled a sex offender for years. The proposal was supported by the parents of Jesse Logan, a Cincinnati 18-year-old who committed suicide after the naked picture of herself which she sexted was forwarded to people in her high school.
Utah lawmakers lessened the penalty for sexting for someone younger than 18 to a misdemeanor from a felony.
An episode of Degrassi: The Next Generation titled "Shoot to Thrill" featured Alli sexting Johnny.(Season 9 guide)
In the Glee episode "Hairography", Santana Lopez and Puck sext each other while Puck and Quinn are babysitting.
In the episode "Reckoner" (season 5, episode 3) of Criminal Minds, sexting was mentioned by Heather Vanderwaal when she was interrogated by Jennifer 'JJ' Jareau. Heather's husband claimed, that Heather's daughter Allison (Heather's husband is Allison's stepfather) sent him her naked photo by a mistake (she meant to send it to another student of her school as part of the sexting).
In Ludacris' new album, Battle of the Sexes, he includes a bonus track called 'Sexting'