Lee Rannals for redOrbit.com – Your Universe Online
In the past 15 years, teenagers have gone from communicating to their friends through AOL Instant Messenger on their family computer, to texting on their very own smartphone. However, new research indicates that the transition may have actually just opened up a new portal for teens to take advantage of.
Teens are sexting at a higher rate than ever before, according to new research published in the July 2 issue of Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine.
The study found that close to 30 percent of teenagers are engaging in the practice of sending nude pictures of themselves through email or text messages.
The survey of nearly 1,000 students at seven public high schools in southeast Texas was the first study of the public health impact of teen sexting.
The researchers found that while 28 percent of teens have sent out nude pictures of themselves, 57 percent have been asked to send a nude picture, and 31 percent have asked for a nude picture to be sent to them.
The latest results show an increase in other estimates generated through other studies, including one published study that suggested only a little over one percent of teens participated in sexting.
“Pediatricians, policy makers, schools and parents have been handicapped by insufficient information about the nature and importance of teen sexting,” lead author Jeff Temple, UTMB assistant professor in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, said in a press release. “These findings shed new light on the public health importance of this increasingly common behavior and we hope that the data contributes to improved adolescent health care.”
The authors of the current findings said that their study was based on a larger, and more diverse scale than those used in a previous studies.
“It appears that sexting is a modern version of ‘show me yours and I’ll show you mine,’ but the commonness of the behavior does not condone its occurrence,” Temple said in the release. “On the contrary, we found that teens are generally bothered by being asked to send a naked picture.”
He said nearly all girls were bothered by having been asked, and that more than half of the boys admitted they were bothered at least a little.
The team also found a correlation between teens who have engaged in sexual activity, and those who have participated in sexting. They said that those who have had sex with their peers were more than likely to also have participated in sexting, compared to those who have not experienced either.
Teenage girls who engaged in sexting were also more than likely to have participated in other, more risky, sexual activity like multiple partners, or use drugs and alcohol before sex.
Temple advises pediatricians and other health care providers to consider screening for sexting behaviors, and use it as an opportunity to discuss sexual behavior and safe sex. He also said parents should counsel their teens about these behaviors and have a discussion about sexting.
The researcher said under current laws, millions of teens would be prosecutable for child pornography or other sexual crimes.
“Resources currently used to criminally punish teen sexting could instead be diverted to prevention and education programs focusing on reducing risky sex behaviors among adolescents,” Temple adds.
The researchers will be performing a follow-up study to explore the psychological impact of sexting. Temple said future research should include longitudinal studies that explore whether an adolescent’s past sexual experiences have had an impact on their current risky sexual behaviors.