Yesterday, JAMA Pediatrics Journal released a study that showed about 27 percent of teens today receive sexually explicit text messages (sexts) and about 14.8 percent of them send them.
That’s about 1 in 4 and 1 in 7, respectively.
The study was not an experiment itself but a “systematic review and meta-analysis” of 39 other published studies, including 110,380 participants ages 11.9 to 17 years old.
What the teen sexting study revealed:
- As the teens got older, teen sexting became more prevalent
- “Sexting has increased in recent years”
- Teens sext more on their phones than the computer
- 12% of teens forwarded sexts without the original sender’s consent
- 8.4% of teens had a sext forwarded without giving their consent
What’s most troubling
The study writers said more research was needed to learn about nonconsensual sexting to “appropriately target and inform intervention, education and policy efforts.”
The fact that about 1 in 12 teens has had a sext of theirs sent to others without their permission should certainly be reason for parents to get on board with some early/preventative sex education.
But it’s not just about having your personal photo forwarded to a mass audience without consent. Teens need to know that sending a picture of themselves to even a person without that person’s consent is not OK.
How to bring up the sexting topic with your teen
According to JAMA, here are some ways to protect and educate your child about sexting:
- “Start discussions about sexting early“
- “Discuss sexting risks,” like having the recipient send their photos without asking. Or, getting into legal trouble if they were to make such a mistake. (This can happen if a young couple breaks up or gets in a fight, for example.)
- “Emphasize that it is not OK to pressure someone into sexting or to be pressured.” Remind your teen of his or her worth.
- “Check in with your child regularly to answer questions and be supportive”
- If they’ve not yet dealt with sexting, explain to them that sometimes it can be (falsely) introduced as a way to “prove” to someone you like them.
- Have small chats overtime instead of one giant “talk” at once
Why it matters and why they do it
Sexting can cause “emotional distress for those who are pressured to send these photos as well as those who receive these photos,” JAMA says. It can also be incredibly embarrassing if a teen’s photo is mass distributed without their permission.
As for why they do it:
“Adolescence is a time of life in which teenagers are learning about their own bodies, how to take risks, and about romantic attractions. For some teenagers, engaging in sexting may feel like a way to explore their attraction to someone,” JAMA says. “