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'Sexting' Demonstrates Active Sex Among Teens

Update Date: Sep 17, 2012 11:53 AM EDT

Contrary to popular belief, 'Sexting' or sexually explicit texting is not a substitute for sexual behaviors, rather illustrates behavior that is already taking place.

According to a study conducted by the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, teens who send and receive "sex messages" are likely engaging in the same behaviors descried.

In a survey released in the online publication Pediatrics, 1,800 students ages 12-18, majorly Hispanic, who admitted to sexting were seven times more likely to be sexually active than there peers who did not engage in such behavior.

Times Healthland reports that three-quarters of the teens surveyed had cell phones they used regularly and while 15 percent revealed that they sexted 54 percent reported that they 'new someone who did;' This translated to a probability of being 17 times likely to be sexting themselves.

These same sexters were also reported to be more likely to have had unprotected sex in their last sexual encounter than their non-sexting peers.

"No one's actually going to get a sexually transmitted disease because they're sexting," Eric Rice, the study's lead researcher from the University of Southern California, in Los Angeles, told Reuters Health. "What we really wanted to know is, Is there a link between sexting and taking risks with your body? And the answer is a pretty resounding 'yes.'"

The study also indicates that sexting is more common, and more likely to suggest active sexual engagements, among older and non-heterosexual adolescents.

The report states:

"... [LGBTQ] individuals are more likely to be engaging in both sexting and sexual risk behavior, yet feel less comfortable disclosing their sexual identity and behavior to providers. We encourage providers to not only connect with LGBTQ youth about sexting, but to also stress the importance of protected sex, given their added vulnerability to STIs and HIV."

These findings contradict a 2009 Pew Research study that found some teens "view sexting as a safer alternative to real life sexual activity," as cited by CNN.

However, researchers note that because the study was restricted to a single urban area in Los Angeles that also happened to be primarily Hispanic, further studies are needed to verify any results. Though, parents and school health officials should educate and caution children about the dangers of unprotected sex and possible misuse and abuse of sext messages.

Among teens, the sharing and spreading of sexually explicit messages and pictures sent in trusted confidence to a particular person is common practice and can have detrimental affects on the social and mental health of the exposed teen. 

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