Thursday 21 March, 2019

One in four teens 'has been sexted'

Teenage sexting is on the rise, according to a new study.

More than a quarter of all teenagers have received a sext and one in seven has sent one, according to the report published in the journal JAMA Pediatrics.

The study, which defined sexting as the electronic sharing of sexually explicit images, videos or messages, looked at 39 studies from around the world with a combined total of 110,380 participants. Their average age was 15 and on average just under half of all participants were male.

“Our results indicated that consensual sexting is becoming a more common practice among youth, with 14.8% and 27.4% of youth sending and receiving sexts, respectively,” the report said.

The researchers found that the more recent studies showed a higher prevalence of sexting – something they attributed to wider mobile phone ownership.

They also found a higher rate of sexting among older teenagers, which they said potentially supported the notion “that youth sexting may be an emerging, and potentially normal, component of sexual behavior and development”.

It is widely assumed that girls are more likely to sext due to perceived pressure from boys, but the researchers said their analysis found “no significant sex differences in the rate of sending or receiving sexts”.

Worryingly, they said the study found that 12 percent of young people had forwarded a sext without the sender’s consent and 8.4 percent of people had been victims of such behaviour. Globally people are increasingly worried about this phenomenon, which can lead to bullying, exploitation and serious emotional distress for young people as they lose control of how their private images or messages are shared. 

The team said the rate of non-consensual sexting should “continue to be a primary concern for policymakers”. Factors linked to non-consensual sexting should be investigated, they said, and education campaigns and legal policies aimed at preventing it assessed.  

More broadly, they called for more education for young people on building healthy relationships in the digital era. They also urged teachers and parents to make time to talk to younger children about sexting, given the average age for children to obtain their first smartphone is 10.

Study author Sheri Madigan of the University of Calgary told US media that parents should “be proactive, not reactive” about digital safety. “Have open conversations early and often - not just when problems or concerns arise,” she told TIME.

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