Sexting on the rise among teens, study says

Posted at 7:25 AM, Jul 03, 2012
and last updated 2012-07-03 07:32:12-04

AUSTIN, TX (WTVR) – Nearly 30 percent of U.S. teenagers are sexting, sending nude photos via email or text, according to a study that shows the behavior is more common than previously thought.

Researchers at the University of Texas Medical Branch found that more than half of teens have been asked to send a nude photo of themselves to someone, and 31 percent had requested a naked picture to be sent to them.

Unlike earlier online research and polls and a smaller published study on sexting, these recent findings, which are based on a survey of nearly 1,000 students in public high schools in southeast Texas, indicate a higher rate of sexting among teens.

The teens in the study, which is published in the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, ranged in age from 14 to 19 years old, but the vast majority were 15 and 16. Boys were much more likely to ask for a nude photo to be sent to them. But in some cases girls also took the initiative.

Although sexting was common with teens, many admitted that they were uncomfortable with the behavior.

Among the boys more than 50 percent admitted being annoyed at least a little.

But even more importantly, sexting can be indicative of sexual behavior, particularly with girls.

After examining the association between sexting and sexual behavior, researchers found that teenage girls, but not boys, who sexted were more likely to have a higher prevalence of risky behavior such as having multiple partners and using drugs and alcohol before sex.

And rather than leading to harsher penalties for sexting such as prosecutions for child pornography, researchers hope that these findings will lead to softer legal punishments so stretched resources can be used to fund educational programs for teens on reducing risk sexual behavior.