How risky is sexting for your pre-teen?

How risky is sexting for your pre-teen?

Should sexually explicit text messaging be considered a risky behavior for teens or just an extension of normal teenage flirting? Researchers at the University of Southern California investigated and found that among middle school students, those who reported receiving a sext were six times more likely to also report being sexually active. This latest research also found that young teens who sent more than 100 texts per day were more likely to report being sexually active.

“These findings call attention to the need to train health educators, pediatricians and parents on how best to communicate with young adolescents about sexting in relations to sexual behavior,” says study author Eric Rice. “The sexting conversation should occur as soon as the child acquires a cell phone.”

The American Academy of Pediatrics offers the following tips for talking with your children about sexting:

  • Learn about your child’s understanding of what sexting is.
  • Use examples appropriate for your child’s age.
  • Make sure that children understand that sexting is serious and considered a crime in many areas.
  • Monitor headlines and the news for stories about “sexting” that illustrate the very real consequences for both senders and receivers.

The study reviewed responses from 1,300 middle school students in Los Angeles to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s Youth Risk Behavior Survey.  Respondents ranged in age from 10-15, with an average age of 12.3 years.

“As parents and as a community, we need to continue to educate teens about the potential negative consequences of sharing intimate pictures of themselves with others,” says Dr. Bobbi Viegas-Miller, a licensed clinical psychologist with Advocate Medical Group in Park Ridge, Ill.

“Parents can consider taking away or limiting access to technology at parties or slumber parties where tweens/teens may experience more peer pressure to sext, and educate parents on how to monitor and talk to their kids about technology.”

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  1. One of the many downsides to technology. Hopefully we can improve these numbers with a collaborative effort!

  2. It is definitely hard for parents to balance between letting their child have some privacy and also monitoring in order to keep them safe. I think the best thing to do is always communicate with your children the risks of this behavior in hope that they will make good decisions

  3. I think things are just harder for this generation. I mean, as a youth I think a lot of us did the usual “You show me yours, I’ll show you mine” – but at least there then was no permanent record. Not any more!

    The more of this I read, the more I fear for younger kids. My sister’s two girls are monitored using autodetection *and* supervision, using things like for laptops and for phones and tablets. She also (tries to) restrict access to particular times, particular places, etc. Sure, they kinda hate her for it, but perhaps she’s saving them from themselves?

    Of course, kids are so goddamn inventive, they always find a way round. Maybe a bit of “Big Brother” is the only way on this?

  4. Lynn Hutley

    Thanks for the resources Suzie. I agree that kids find workarounds but the more educated and communicative parents are about these topics, the better.

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About the Author

Lynn Hutley
Lynn Hutley

Lynn Hutley, health enews contributor, is coordinator of public affairs and marketing at Advocate BroMenn Medical Center and Advocate Eureka Hospital in central Illinois. Having grown up in a family-owned drug store, it is no surprise that Lynn has spent almost 18 years working in the health care industry. She has a degree in human resources management from Illinois State University and is always ready to tackle Trivia Night.