A new study has found that at least one in four teens have received a sext, and approximately one in seven have sent one. And while those number may seem alarming to some, it’s important to take a step back and remember that this isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
According to AdvocatesForYouth.org, 46 percent of teens are sexually active, and 62 percent of high school seniors have engaged in sexual intercourse…so at the end of the day, one in four teens sexting isn’t all that shocking.
“As teens get older, we are going to see increasing numbers who sext,” study co-author Jeff Temple, a professor of psychiatry at the University of Texas Medical Branch, told CNN. “Just as we see with actual sexual behavior. It’s not terribly surprising considering as teens age, their interest in sexuality is heightened. They are trying to figure out who they are.”
The study, published in the journal JAMA Pediatrics, is based on an analysis of 39 studies conducted between 1990 and 2016 with a total of about 110,300 young men and women between the ages of 11 and 18.
Of course, this doesn’t mean that sexting among teens is always a good thing either. As (most) adults know, sexting requires a certain level of trust among both the sender and the recipient, and breaching that trust (i.e. showing a sext to someone outside the partnership) can yield seriously negative effects on a person’s mental health. As can sexting a person without their consent.
Research found that more than one in 10 teens forward sexts to friends without consent and roughly one in 12 teens have had sexts they sent shared without their permission. And that’s a big deal.
So what exactly are parents supposed to do? For one, they should talk honestly to their teens about sexting and be specific about the possible consequences. At the end of the day, sexting isn’t necessarily unhealthy or anything to be seriously concerned about, especially if — just as with actual sex — teens are armed with the information they need to make informed decisions.