Teen Sexting Linked to Real-World Risky Sexual Behavior

Teens aren't using digital sexual behavior as a safer alternative to real-world sex, a study finds

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Teens who send and receive sexually explicit texts or photos, colloquially known as “sexting,” are likely engaging in the same kinds of risky sexual behaviors offline, finds a new survey of Los Angeles high school students.

The recent survey of about 1,800 mostly Hispanic L.A. students, ages 12 to 18, found that teens who said they had sexted were seven times more likely to be sexually active than their peers who had never sent a naughty text. About three-quarters of surveyed teens had cell phones they used regularly; 15% had sexted and 54% said they knew someone who had. Kids who said their friends were sexting were 17 times more likely to sext themselves.

Although only a minority of teens engaged in sexting, those who did were not only more likely to be sexually active, but they also had higher chances of having unprotected sex during their last sexual encounter.

(MORE: Kids Sexting May Not Be as Big a Problem as We Thought)

The findings suggest that teens are not necessarily using sexting as a safer alternative to real sex, as some previous data has indicated, which raises public health concerns about the link between digital sexual behavior and real-world risks of sexually transmitted infection and other risks.

“No one’s actually going to get a sexually transmitted disease because they’re sexting,” Eric Rice, the study’s lead researcher from the University of Southern California, in Los Angeles, told Reuters Health. “What we really wanted to know is, Is there a link between sexting and taking risks with your body? And the answer is a pretty resounding ‘yes.'”

Among the study’s participants, those most likely to sext were black teens and LGBT teens. The authors call on parents, doctors and educators to increase conversations about sexting with teens, but they highlight the importance of targeting these particularly higher-risk groups:

Engaging in such a conversation is applicable for adolescents of all sexual orientations; however, it may be even more important with sexual minority adolescents (LGBTQ), as these individuals are more likely to be engaging in both sexting and sexual risk behavior, yet feel less comfortable disclosing their sexual identity and behavior to providers. We encourage providers to not only connect with LGBTQ youth about sexting, but to also stress the importance of protected sex, given their added vulnerability to STIs and HIV.

(MORE: Online Cheaters Still Prefer Real-World Infidelity)

Teens should also be reminded that photos and texts sent over cell phones can easily be made public on the Internet, opening them up to bullying and other risks, including criminal pornography charges. “Sexting may be particularly detrimental for adolescent populations because of the likelihood that sexually explicit material will be quickly shared throughout young people’s technologically active social groups,” the authors warned.

The authors recommend that schools add the topic of sexting to their sexual health-ed curriculum and that doctors use questions about sexting as a way to transition into other conversations about sexual activity.

The study was published in the journal Pediatrics.

11 comments
facebook-500034626
facebook-500034626

"... same kinds of risky sexual behaviors offline"  Why is sexual behavior risky?  Oh I get it if your a teenager then it's risky if your an adult it's fine though. 

If it's because they don't have protection, give them some.

If you can't do that because you're religious, then beat them (or yell,  your preference).

If you can't beat them (or yell) do what the rest of us do... complain teenagers having hormones and  provide no possible alternatives.

CobiaKiller
CobiaKiller

Mostly hispanic!??!  Then why did they bring up percentages of "unprotected sex?"  Most hispanics are catholic, and therefore would never use a condom, regardless of if they were sxting or not...

Destruxion
Destruxion

This is no different than kids passing dirty notes in class before cell-phones.  I'm sure the stats would've been the same for them.  Maybe there should be an app that parents download which forward any text message that include certain key-words.  Ha!

Anne
Anne

The survey is about HISPANIC teens. Not surprised.

Randall
Randall

Question: is this true of adults as well? ...What do you mean nobody's studied that..? 'Bit of a double standard, wouldn't you say?

ewersmith
ewersmith

So now we can blame cellphones for sex .................................... I wonder how much this study cost the Taxpayers?

Michael McFadden
Michael McFadden

I think the results of the Sexting study are clear.  Cell phones obviously cause sexually transmitted diseases.

- MJM