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Sexting linked to increase in sexual activity among middle-schoolers

Teens frequently use phones to 'sext' opposite sex
Teens frequently use phones to 'sext' opposite sex
Photo by Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images

A new study on “sexting” among middle-school students indicates that it is linked with sexual activity and sexual risk behavior among adolescents – as high as rates for high school students. (Sexting is a term used to describe sending or receiving sexually explicit texts or picture messages on a cell phone.) This is the first study of its kind to look at this issue exclusively in middle school students.

In the study, 1,285 students were study as part of the 2012 Youth Risk Behavior Survey in Los Angeles middle schools among students who were 10 to 15, with an average age of 12.3 years. The researchers found that participants who sent more than 100 texts a day were more likely to report being sexually active. Overall, 20 percent of students with text-capable cellphones said they had ever received a sext, and 5 percent reported sending a sext.

They also found that:

  • Young teens who sent sexts were almost four times more likely to report being sexually active than those who didn't sext.
  • Those students who reported receiving a sext were 23 times more likely to have also sent one.
  • Students who identified themselves as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBTQ) were nine times more likely to have sent a sext. However, LGBTQ young adolescents were not more likely to be sexually active, the study showed.
  • Youth who texted more than 100 times a day were more than twice as likely to have received a sext and almost 4.5 times more likely to report having sent a sext.

“Because early sexual debut is correlated with higher rates of sexually transmitted infections and teen pregnancies, pediatricians should discuss sexting with young adolescents because this may facilitate conversations about sexually transmitted infection and pregnancy prevention,” the authors explain. “Sexting and associated risks should be considered for inclusion in middle school sex education curricula.”

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