Study: Teens Who Sext Are More Likely to Be Sexually Active

Study: Teens Who Sext Are More Likely to Be Sexually Active

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Flirting with someone via smartphone is a courting ritual for the 21st-century teen. And adolescents who send nude photos of themselves via text message are more likely to be sexually active, according to a new study.

In our digital lexicon, “sexting” is the act of sending sexually explicit photographs or messages via text message. The new research, however, focused only on teens who asked for or sent nude photos and examined nearly 1,000 adolescents with an average age of 16 years. Those who sexted had a 32 percent increased chance of having sex during the next year relative to kids who did not sext. “Prior to this, we knew sexting and sexual behavior were related, but we didn’t know which came first,” Jeff Temple, the study’s lead author, told Yahoo Health. “It was a chicken-or-the-egg kind of question, and this study begins to answer it.”

Researchers divide the act of sexting into two categories: Passive sexting is the act of requesting or being asked for a nude photo, while active sexting is the actual sharing of the photo. In the past, said Temple, it was believed that both types were related to having sex. “What we found is that only active sexting was the important factor that predicted sexual behavior,” he added. “Passive sexting, alone, was not related to an increased chance of sexual behavior unless the request for the photo was fulfilled by the other person.”

The fact that sexting leads to sex is not that surprising, but what might raise some eyebrows is how common it is. “We found that about 28 percent of teens were sending a naked picture of themselves to another person,” he said. “People are often shocked by that number, but when I talk to others on the front lines — teachers and school counselors — they think that statistic is too low.” Furthermore, it’s not just the “bad kids” who are sexting. “You don’t have to be what we call a high-risk teen to sext,” Temple continued. “It is common, and it is becoming a part of regular sexual development and adolescent relationships.”

While the thought of their children sending nude pictures to others will strike terror into the hearts of parents everywhere, Temple thinks that the new findings present one more opportunity to educate young people. “The behavior is not really anything new,” he said. “Throughout history, teens have always been curious about exploring our sexuality. People just did it in different ways in the past.” What’s important is that parents and teachers pay attention and use what many consider a risky or negative behavior to create a positive outcome. “If a kid is sexting, there is a good chance he or she is thinking about sex, having sex, or will have sex within the next year,” Temple said. “Now that we know that, parents and teachers can use it as an opportunity to talk to them about healthy relationships and safe sex.”

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