By Daniel Rubin-Marx, SIECUS Research Intern
Jeff R. Temple et al, “Teen Sexting and Its Association with Sexual Behaviors,” Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine (July 2012).
The study explored associations between adolescent ‘sexting’ (sending a nude picture of oneself through email or text) and the likelihood of engaging in sexual relationships. Over 900 public high school students in Texas participated in this two-year longitudinal study.
- Nearly 28% of the sample reported having sexted at one point.
- Females were more likely to be asked to ‘sext’ than males; males were more likely than females to request it of someone.
- For females, receiving, sending, or requesting nude images via ‘sexting’ was associated with the likelihood of dating, having sex, having multiple sex partners, and alcohol use before sex; for males, ‘sexting’ was associated only with the likelihood of dating and having sex but not with the other risk behaviors.
The researchers sought to better understand the relationship between ‘sexting’ and sexual activity in a large cohort of adolescents. The study accounted for age, race/ethnicity, and gender, in addition to participants’ feeling “bothered” when asked to supply a nude image via cyberspace. Compared to the work of other researchers on this still ill-defined phenomenon, the present study had the advantage of a large and varied sample size. The Texas context of the study is noteworthy – in a state where the political climate has long favored abstinence-only-until marriage education, nearly one in three youth report that they have engaged in ‘sexting’.
Further research could be done to better define what constitutes being “bothered” by exposure to, or requests for, nude images via text message. When does annoyance become genuine harm? While popular news headlines feature sexting-related suicides such as that of high school student Jesse Logan, additional studies could help policymakers and educators address this activity in ways that increase understanding and reduce panic.
Temple JR, et al (2012). Teen sexting and its association with sexual behaviors. Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine 166(7) <http://archpedi.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=1212181>.
Celizic M (2009). Her teen committed suicide over ‘sexting’. NBC Today, 6 March 2009, accessed 17 July 2012, <http://today.msnbc.msn.com/id/29546030/ns/today-parenting_and_family/t/her-teen-committed-suicide-over-sexting/>.