A new study has found that teens who engage in sexting may suffer long-term consequences. Sexting is the term used to describe the exchanging of racy or nude photos through text messaging. The study, conducted by researchers at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston, measured ways that sexting is linked to sexual behaviors, risk-taking, and problems connecting with other people.
Lead author Jeff Temple, PhD, a psychologist at the University of Texas, and colleagues discovered that risky sexual behaviors and drug use were among the risks associated with sexting in teens. Girls were more likely to engage in sexual behaviors if they were sexting.
Temple’s research about sexting was part of a larger, long-term study about relationships and sexual behaviors. The study included nearly 1,000 students from seven Texas high schools.
Who’s Sexting And Why?
Approximately one quarter of those who participated in the survey admitted to sending a naked picture of themselves, and more than half of the teens who had sexted said that the behavior “bothered” them. The researchers have plans to follow up on whether “bothered” means that they were angry or if the sexting resulted in feelings of embarrassment.
Temple is continuing to research the topic in more detail, with the intention of providing insight to those who might have an influence over teens regarding this type of behavior. The hope is that teachers, doctors and parents can have open conversations about the risks of sexting among teenagers.
Sexting And Communication
Clearly, sexting is a logical extension of curiosity toward sex that young people have always exhibited, but it represents a new form of communicating about sex, and one that isn’t going away. The study underscores the need for parents to talk with their children about sexting in the context of safe sex and relationships.
Another important consideration is how sexting is, overall, affecting teens’ ability to interact with other people. The sharing of a sext could prevent a teen from experiencing a genuine relationship or friendship. Teens that miss out on the opportunity to practice recognizing and exchanging visual and verbal cues may struggle to maintain face-to-face relationships.
In short, text messaging nude photos provides a new danger, one in which the impulsiveness of a teen collides with the permanence of an image preserved digitally. In the moment they hit “send,” teens may not grasp that the picture can be shared immediately and there may be negative consequences.
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