A study in Pediatrics found 22 percent of at-risk seventh graders participated in sexting, with 17 percent sending texts only and 5 percent sending texts and photos.
The study “Sexting and Sexual Behavior in At-Risk Adolescents,” in the February 2014 Pediatrics (published online Jan. 6), gathered information from 410 children ages 12 to 14 about whether they had texted or emailed a sexual picture or message within the last six months, and about their sexual risk behaviors and intentions.
Adolescents who engaged in sexting reported more physical maturity and were more likely to engage in other sexual behaviors. This group also reported higher perceptions of approval for sexual behavior from parents, peers and the media, higher intentions to engage in sexual behavior, lower emotional awareness, and lower emotional self-efficacy. At-risk teenagers who had sexted were 4 to 7 times more likely to engage in a variety of sexual behaviors. Although any sexting appeared to be a marker for sexual risk, sending photos was associated with even greater likelihood of early sexual activity.
The study authors conclude that as early as middle school, attention should be paid to teens’ electronic communication because sexting may be a marker for sexual risk behaviors that can have significant consequences, including pregnancy or disease.