"I've personally only sent images to someone who I was in a long-term relationship with and really trusted, so I knew it wouldn't go any further but I think most people do send images without thinking," she says.Of course, she sometimes worries about consequences but her friends seldom discuss sexting, although some may tell close friends, Penny says.Those who are not sexually active are not using it much at all," says the lead author of the study, Professor Anne Mitchell of La Trobe University in Melbourne.Just over 2,000 Australian teenagers between 16 and 18 years old were asked about their sexual habits."Teenagers here are growing up in a busy city and I think they want to explore sexuality younger; it's inevitable here.That and there is so much peer pressure to be sexual, to be out there, to be fun; but teens are nervous too," she says.As far as parents' nightmares go, it has to be among the worst: your teenager takes a provocative selfie and texts it to his or her "partner", assuming the photo will be their own little secret.But the relationship sours and the image is placed on the web, where it goes viral. According to a recent study in Australia, sexting is simply part of the dating process for high-school students.
Stephanie, a Year 11 student in Hong Kong, says the practice is common among her friends as teen relationships are depending more and more on social media."If messages are sent and images become viral, however, it is definitely a hot topic of conversation," she adds, citing a younger student whom she mentored during a school camp."She repeatedly sent raunchy photos of herself to various boys sometimes over Skype but most of the time by SMS and Facebook.this has the capacity to ruin your self-image and reputation for a very long time." As a teacher, Penny's mother, Jennifer, is conscious of how strongly teenagers want to fit in with their peers and that it's very hard not to follow if their group of friends is into sexting.But teens should realise that sexting is "not an affirmation of trust or commitment in a relationship", in fact, it just leaves you vulnerable to manipulation.