More than one in four teenagers – equally male and female -- have sent a nude picture of themselves via text or email, according to a study by the University of Texas Medical Branch published Tuesday by the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine.
Nearly seven out of 10 teen girls reported having been asked to send a naked photo of themselves. And while more than 90 percent of the girls reported being at least "a little bit" bothered by the requests, one in four are apparently still complying.
Parents should talk to them about how to get out of “sexting” if they don’t want to do it, says the study’s lead author, Jeff Temple, a psychologist and assistant professor in the department of obstetrics and gynecology at the university. Parents can find tips on how to talk to boys and girls about sexting at the American Academy of Pediatrics website -- click here.
Kids should all know that sending naked photos of themselves technically violates child pornography laws, and they should understand that the recipient can share those photos with a wide range of people through re-texting or social media, Temple says. That can cause psychological ramifications for the exposed teen, he says.
The researchers surveyed nearly 1,000 students at seven public high schools in southeast Texas. The kids surveyed ranged in age from 14 to 19 and were all in 10th or 11th grade. The study found that 28 percent of adolescents have sent a nude picture of themselves through electronic means; more than half (57 percent) have been asked to send a nude picture (with 68 percent of girls reporting they’ve been asked); and about one-third (31 percent) have asked for a nude picture to be sent to them.
The study indicates kids are sexting more than previously thought, Temple says. While the survey didn’t ask who kids were sending the photos to, the survey results, which also asked questions about dating, suggest that the sexting may occur within the context of the kids’ romantic relationships, Temple says. So it’s not the equivalent of, say, posing nude for “Playboy.”
“Just because it's common and happening doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the worst thing ever,” Temple says. “More than likely a high majority of these kids send it to the boyfriend or girlfriend and it’s deleted eventually.”