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'Sexting' Found to Increase Teens' Likelihood of Engaging in Sexual Intercourse

First Posted: Jun 30, 2014 11:36 AM EDT

Technology has contributed to the rise in various sorts of sexual communication. Now, researchers at the University of Southern California have found that adolescents who receive 'sexts' are six times more likely to report being sexually active.

'Sexting' is the act of sending sexually explicit messages via cell phones and is officially listed in the Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary. The trend has become common among young teens who are discovering their sexuality and delving into the world of complex social relationships. But it's not limited to this age group, as we saw on the news with New York Congressman Anthony Weiner.

Sexually explicit text messaging has long been a concern among the parents of adolescents. The ongoing debate has the less-concerned parents believing that the behavior is a form of normal teenage flirtation and the more-concerned convinced that it's a risk behavior. The USC study helps provide insight to the argument.

The university researchers anonymously sampled over 1,300 middle school students aged 10-15 years old in Los Angeles via the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Youth Risk Behavior Survey. The findings were interesting, and oddly enough, weren't limited to 'sexts' - if young teens simply sent over 100 texts per day (a number that isn't too high) they reported being more sexually active and were 4.5 times more likely to send a sext.

"Sexting and Sexual Behavior Among Middle School Students," was published in the journal Pediatrics on Monday. The researchers sought to determine whether sexting was associated with sexual activity and sexual risk behavior among early adolescents because past studies have shown such a relationship with high school students. The study found that 20% of the students surveyed reported receiving a sext and 5% reported sending one.

The 5% who reported sending sexts were almost four times more likely to be sexually active, and those who received a sext were 23 times more likely to return the favor. Additionally, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) students were nine times more likely to have sent a sext, but were no more sexually active than straight students. Unfortunately, it seems the only way to prevent such behavior is to become invasive with a child's social life.

"Our results show that excessive, unlimited or unmonitored texting seems to enable sexting," said Eric Rice, the study's lead author, in a news release. "Parents may wish to openly monitor their young teen's cell phone, check in with them about who they are communicating with, and perhaps restrict their number of texts allowed per month."

However, the researchers acknowledge that further studies need to be conducted in order to more definitively determine the relationship between the use of technology and sexual behavior among adolescents.

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