While posting marginally naughty photos online certainly isn't smart or safe, at least most young women abandon the behavior once they enter the professional world ... right? Not according to a new survey from CosmoGirl.com and the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy.
Almost 40 percent of women age 20 to 26 have sent or posted nude or semi-nude photos or videos of themselves online -- that's 14 percent more than the number of teen girls who said the same. While about two thirds of the saucy snapshots are intended for significant others, almost half of all young men say it's common for the pics to be shared with someone other than the intended recipient. Why do women send these photos in the first place? For 72 percent, it's simple to be "fun or flirtatious."
Click here to see what experts and readers say about the phenomenon.
According to media critic Jean Kilbourne, it comes down to attention seeking. "Everybody feels that the most important thing is to get your 15 minutes of fame and to go to any lengths to achieve it. So sending pictures around like that is a way of getting a whole lot of attention and recognition even though it's going to be devastating and short-lived."
Perry Aftab, an Internet privacy and piracy lawyer, says that lack of foresight
also plays a role. "They don't understand the consequences ... They don't think about where that video is going to go, or how long it's going to be on the Internet and the 50-year-old who is going to be drooling over it."
And (besides salivating middle-aged men), what are those consequences? Professional setbacks, for one. Executive-search firm ExecuNet found that 77 percent of recruiters run searches of job candidates on the Web
. And if they don't like what they see, 35 percent said they've eliminated a candidate based on the information they uncovered, so it might be best to cover up.
Katie, 26, who teaches middle school in Virginia, is shocked by what she's seen and heard her students doing with naughty pics and messages. She also watches what she puts on her own social networking profiles.
"I don't think there's anything wrong with an employer not wanting to hire someone because of what he/she has hanging around out there on the Internet. I do have MySpace and Facebook, but I have to be very careful about what I choose to put up on both sites."
And what about the guys who are often the recipients of these photos? David, 28, from New York says if it's from someone he barely knows, he's a little turned off, but if it's from someone he's dating, it's cool.
"She's seen as fun, adventurous, sexy and not borderline 'slutty' like the girl I barely know who sends naughty pics and videos," he says.
Tell us: Have you posted or sent nude or suggestive pictures or messages? Did they ever get sent to someone you didn't want to see them, or discovered by your boss?