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.
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.