Sexting suggests more than just words and pictures


About 1 in every 5 middle school students engages in “sexting,” and those who do are more likely to be sexually active.


About 1 in every 5 middle school students engages in “sexting,” and those who do are more likely to be sexually active.

Although previous studies have linked sexual messages and/or pictures (sexting) with sexual intercourse among high school-aged students, no studies have examined the prevalence of sexting among early adolescents and its association with sexual behaviors in this age group.

However, a new study out of Rhode Island reports that 22% of 12- to 14-year-olds sext, which is higher than the general population. The study also shows that those who do are 4 to 7 times more likely to engage in a variety of sexual behaviors, including touching genitals, having “friends with benefits,” oral sex, and vaginal sex. Sending sexual photos is associated with a greater likelihood of sexual activity than sending words alone.

The investigators enrolled teenagers participating in Project TRAC (Talking about Risk and Adolescent Choices) from 5 urban public middle schools in Rhode Island. All the teenagers were in 7th grade and aged between 12 and 14 years.

Of the 410 adolescents who provided answers to the questions, 22% reported engaging in sexting during the previous 6 months, with 17% reporting sending texts only and the remaining 5% reporting sending texts and photographs. Phones are more commonly used than Internet for sexting: 19% of participants reported sending text messages by phone and 9% reported using the Internet; 5% reported sending pictures by phone and 2% reported sending pictures by Internet.

The researchers say that because many of the acts associated with sexting can have significant consequences, such as pregnancy and/or disease, pediatricians should encourage parents to monitor their adolescents’ cell phone and computer activity, restrict access, and use electronic communications as opportunities to discuss sexual issues at large. 



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