The first study to examining the temporal relationship between sexting-sending sexually explicit images electronically-and sexual activity in adolescents finds a link but not necessarily between sexting and risky sexual behaviors.
The first study of the temporal relationship between sexting-sending sexually explicit images electronically-and sexual activity (intercourse) in adolescents finds a link but not necessarily between sexting and risky sexual behaviors. The study also examined the role of active sexting (sending a nude photo) and passive sexting (asking or being asked for a nude photo) in sexual behavior.
Questionnaires completed anonymously by 964 Texas high school students, mostly sophmores, in the course of an ongoing survey revealed that the 28% of students who said they’d sent a nude photo by text or e-mail were 1.32 times more likely than other teenagers to report having sexual intercourse a year later. However, sexting often wasn’t temporally associated with risky sexual behavior, suggesting that it isn’t limited to at-risk adolescents and may be evolving into a normal part of adolescent sexual development.
Feature: Eating disorders in the pediatric population
Active sexting was linked to greater likelihood of sexual activity whereas passive sexting wasn’t. However, as expected, the researchers found that active sexting “mediated” the relationship between passive sexting and having sex during the next year. Youth who asked for a sext were almost 10 times as likely to send one as youth who had never requested a sext; youth who were asked for a sext were more than 5 times as likely to send one as youth who weren’t asked.
The findings show that sexting may sometimes precede intercourse and support the view that it’s a credible indicator of adolescent sexual activity. The question of which comes first, sexting or sex, isn’t academic, the researchers point out. Knowing that sexting comes before sexual activity, especially risky activity, could lead to safe sex interventions that target sexting teens directly and prevention programs that aim to decrease risky sex by reducing sexting.
To get weekly clinical advice for today's pediatrician, subscribe to the Contemporary Pediatrics PediaMedia.