“Sexting,” the sending or receiving of sexually explicit text messages or photos via cellphone, appears to be part of a cluster of risky sexual behaviors among adolescents, rather than a substitute for “real world” sex, according to a study in the October 2012 issue of Pediatrics. The study, “Sexually Explicit Cell Phone Messaging Associated With Sexual Risk Among Adolescents,” published online Sept. 17, examined data from more than 1,800 Los Angeles high school students. Of those with access to a cellphone, 15 percent reported that they had engaged in sexting, and 54 percent of students said they knew someone who had sent a “sext.” Adolescents who said they had sexted were more likely to report being sexually active, and were more likely to have had unprotected sex during their most recent sexual encounter, compared with those who did not sext. In this study, certain populations of adolescents were more likely to report sexting, including Black/African American and lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender participants. The authors suggest that physicians use the topic of sexting as an adolescent-friendly way to engage patients in conversation about sexual activity, prevention of sexually transmitted infection, and prevention of unwanted pregnancy. In addition, they recommend that discussion about sexting and the behaviors associated with it be added to school-based health class curricula.
The American Academy of Pediatrics is an organization of 60,000 primary care pediatricians, pediatric medical subspecialists and pediatric surgical specialists dedicated to the health, safety and well-being of infants, children, adolescents and young adults. For more information, visit www.aap.org.