Teenagers are sending sexually explicit images and videos to each other at an alarming rate. That is the conclusion of a study posted recently in the journal Pediatrics. The journal article, “Prevalence of Multiple Forms of Sexting Behavior Among Youth,” is a meta-analysis of 39 worldwide studies that included 110,380 participants. They found that sexting is more common than most parents would even imagine.
The studies focused on teens between the ages of 12 and 17. The researchers estimated that about one in seven kids sent sexting messages and more than one in four received them. The authors suggest that the discrepancy in these numbers is due to the fact that some teens send sexting messages to multiple people.
One of the conclusions of the study is something you would probably already know if you talked to any teenagers. They found the girls are often pressured by boys to send a sexually explicit photo. I sit on a board with an adolescent psychologist who often asks a teenage girl why she sent a photo. The answer is always the same: she was pressured to do so. Sometimes the pressure involved threats to post other pictures.
Parents need to communicate lots of things to their children in light of this new research finding. First, we should remind them of the permanence of these images. They may think they are sending these pictures and videos to a trusted friend. But we hear so many stories about images that were then passed on to others. Then these images are passed on again. Soon the sexually explicit images can be found all over the Internet.
Second, we should tell kids never to send a sexting message to anyone. But we also must tell them not to ask for them. The research shows that boys are four times more likely to pressure girls to send sexting messages. Parents need to talk to their daughters and their sons.
Sexting is more common than we ever would have imagined. That’s why parents need to get involved.