Article at a Glance
While some have suggested that “sexting” (sending sexually explicit texts or photos via mobile phone) might be a safe alternative to “real world” sexual behavior, recent studies show that this is not the case. Rather, sexting appears to be part of a cluster of risky sexual behaviors. Researchers found that teens who sext are more likely to engage in risky sexual behavior.
A study of 1,839 Los Angles high school students found that teens who had sexted were seven times more likely to be sexually active and twice as likely to be having unprotected sex than those who had never sexted.
One out of seven students with a cell phone had sent a sext and more than 50 percent knew somebody who had sent a sext.
A similar study of high school students in Texas found that both girls and boys who sexted were more likely to have had sex, and girls who sexted were more likely to have had multiple partners and to use drugs and alcohol before sex. Over 75 percent of students who had been asked to send a sext, even if they didn’t comply, said that they have had sex. Whereas only 40 percent of teens who had not been asked for a sext admitted to having sexual intercourse.
What does this mean to us as parents?
Be Aware: If you find out that your child is sexting, do not assume that it is the extent of his or her sexual behavior. Now is the time to head off risky behaviors by talking to your child about healthy and age appropriate relationships.
Use it as a Talking Point: Sometimes it can be hard to broach the subject of sex with our teens. Discussing sexting can be a less uncomfortable way to start a conversation about sexual activity, unplanned pregnancies, and sexually transmitted diseases.
Help your Child Understand the Risks of Sexting: Even if your child is younger, have an age-appropriate discussion about what is and is not appropriate to send via text. For teens, help them understand how sexting can be linked with other risky behavior. Make sure they understand that any naked photos they send could end up online. Having naked photos of under-aged individuals could also be charged as possession of child pornography.