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One out of Five Adolescents “Sext”

Update Date: Jan 06, 2014 10:36 AM EST

Sexting, which is the act of engaging in nonphysical sexual activity via devices such as phones, is a growing trend. Sexting includes sending naked photos and/or sexual jargon to someone else. For adult couples that are in a long-distance relationships, sexting could be a way to keep both partners connected to one another. For adolescents, however, sexting could be a potentially compromising activity. According to a new study, children who sext are more likely to engage in other sexual activities in comparison to children who do not sext.

"We know early adolescents are using mobile phones and all forms of technology more and more and we know that early adolescence is a time when people become engaged in sexual activity," lead author, Christopher Houck, staff psychologist at Rhode Island Hospital's Bradley Hasbro Children's Research Center in Providence, said. "So how those two connect is an important area of study."

For this study, the researchers followed 420 adolescents between the ages of 12 and 14. The children attended five urban public schools in Rhode Island between 2009 and 2012. The students had taken a questionnaire that measured risky behaviors particularly in young children with emotional or behavioral issues. The researchers found that within the past six months, 17 percent of the participants admitted that they engaged in sexting. These participants specifically sent explicit text messages. Another five percent of the children surveyed stated that they had sent explicit messages and nude or seminude photographs.

"It could be that for kids who have trouble with emotional processing that it's a little bit easier to sext somebody than to say face-to-face, 'Hey, I like you' and see what that response is," Houck said according to Reuters.

The researchers found that children who hit puberty earlier and had difficulty processing emotions were more likely to report that they have sexted. Furthermore, children who did sext were four to seven times more likely to partake in other sexual behaviors, such as kissing, touching, and having vaginal or oral sex. The researchers reported that children who used photos during sexting had the highest risk.

"Sexting behavior was not uncommon among middle school youth and co-occurred with sexual behavior. These data suggest that phone behaviors, even flirtatious messages, may be an indicator of risk. Clinicians, parents and health programs should discuss sexting with early adolescents," the study authors wrote reported by HealthDay.

The researchers believe that parents should consider adding sexting into their conversations about sex with their young children. By educating and talking to adolescents about sexting, children might feel less pressure to send explicit messages or pictures when asked to. In addiction, by addressing the subject, some children might feel more incline to talk to their parents about sex-related issues that they might be having.

The study was published in Pediatrics.

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