The difference between using these applications and traditional texting is that content is transmitted over the Internet or a data plan, allowing anyone with Internet access to participate.
Kik and Whats App appeal to teens because of the anonymity of the applications.
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.
However, while technically accurate, the 2.5% figure is actually rather misleading.
Of those receiving such a picture, over 25 percent indicated that they had forwarded it to others.
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.
Young adults use the medium of the text message much more than any other new media to transmit messages of a sexual nature.
As a result of sexting being a relatively recent practice, ethics are still being established by both those who engage in it and those who create legislation based on this concept.
Unfortunately these applications carry the same risks and consequences that have always existed.
A 2009 study claims that 4 percent of teens ages 14–17 have claimed to have sent sexually explicit photos of themselves.
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.
Perhaps shedding light on the over-reporting of earlier studies, the researchers found that the figure rose to 9.6% when the definition was broadened from images prosecutable as child pornography to any suggestive image, not necessarily nude ones.
Thus, instead of increasing intimacy in these types of relationships, sexting may act as a buffer for physical intimacy.