New Report Examines the Prevalence of Sexting Among Teenagers

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According to a new report published in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine , more than half of all respondents in a recent evaluation of teen “sexting” trends reported that they had been asked to send nude photos of themselves to other teens, with more than a quarter of the respondents stating that they had sent nude photos of themselves to other adolescents.

The report, Teen Sexting and Its Association With Sexual Behaviors, entailed a longitudinal study involving 848 high school students in seven high schools in southeast Texas. The mean age of the respondents was 15.8, with a majority of the population consisting of 10th and 11th grade students.

Researchers found that 28 percent of the sample population reported having sent a nude photo of themselves via “sext” – a sexually explicit e-mail or text message, usually sent and received via a cell phone or smart phone. An additional 31 percent of the sample population said that they had asked someone to send them a sext, with 57 percent of respondents reporting that they had been asked by someone to send them a sext.

According to researchers, juveniles who engaged in sexting were much likelier to have begun dating and have sex than those who have never sent a sext. Additionally, researchers indicated a “significant association” between sexting behaviors and risky sexual activities – like having multiple sex partners and taking drugs or alcohol before having sex – for female respondents.

Among females in the sample population that had not sent a sext, 42 percent reported having sex, while 77 percent of females in the sample that had sent a sext reported engaging in sexual activity. Of the female respondents that said they were “not bothered” when asked to send a sext, approximately 96 percent of them reported that they have engaged in sexual activity.

Researchers said that although sexting is a common occurrence among adolescents, it’s not necessarily seen as “condoned” behavior among youth.

“On the contrary, we found that teens are generally bothered by being asked to send a naked picture,” the report stated. “In fact, nearly all girls were bothered by having been asked. Even among boys, more than half were bothered at least a little by having been asked.”

Researchers conclude that since the average age of cell phone ownership has gotten younger, there’s a possibility that “sexting” could become a more frequent occurrence among younger juveniles.

“It is essential that pediatricians, adolescent medicine specialists and other health care providers become familiar with, routinely ask about and know how to respond to teen sexting,” the authors of the report advise.

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