A middle-schooler who sends friends sexually explicit texts is more likely to engage in other sexual behaviors as well, a recent study says.
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Psychologist Kate Eshleman, Psy.D explains, “The study found a relationship between sending sexually explicit messages or photos and other high-risk behaviors such as engaging in sexual behaviors, including genital touching up to intercourse.”
Eshleman did not take part in the study, which was conducted at the Bradley/Hasbro Children’s Research Center.
The researchers surveyed more than 400 seventh-graders ages 12 to 14 and asked them about their sexual behavior.
Twenty-two percent of the youngsters said they had sent sexually explicit texts – sometimes calling sexting – within the last six months. Of those, 17 percent sent sexually explicit texts only, while 5 percent sent texts and photos.
The study says that those who sexted were four to seven times more likely to engage in a variety of sexual behaviors. The risk was greater among the young teens who sent photos.
But even more innocent, flirtatious behavior may indicate risk, the study said.
Researchers say parents and teachers should monitor the texts their children send and be aware that sexting can be an issue as early as middle school.
Awkward as it may be, parents also should have an honest discussion with their early adolescent children about the pitfalls of sexting, the study said.
“Parents need to be aware of all the opportunities for communication and interaction that their children are exposed to and educate their kids about their possible dangers,” Eshleman said.
The study was published in the journal Pediatrics.