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Teens who 'sext' more likely to be sexually active
Teens who engage in "sexting" are more likely to demonstrate risky sexual behavior, a study shows.
September 17th, 2012
12:07 AM ET

Teens who 'sext' more likely to be sexually active

If your adolescent is sexting, they may be already sexually active and engaging in risky behavior, a new study suggests.

Researchers are trying to better understand if young people are at greater risk for HIV or other sexually transmitted diseases because they are sending sexually explicit photos or text messages via cell phones.

"Sexting" is not an alternative to "real world" sexual behavior among adolescents, according to a new study published Monday in the journal Pediatrics.

"The same teens who are engaging in digital sex risk taking through sexting are also the same teens that are engaging in sex risk with their bodies in terms of being sexually active and not using condoms," said lead study author Eric Rice, an assistant professor at the University of Southern California's School of Social Work in Los Angeles.

A 2009 report from the Pew Research Center found that some teens "view sexting as a safer alternative to real life sexual activity."

While the term "sexting" may also include messages also sent over the Internet, this particular study looked solely at cell phone text messages and images. It was conducted via questionnaire in the Los Angeles Unified School District. Researchers surveyed 1,839 students ages 12 to 18 at random. Most were Latino or African-American. Three-quarters of those surveyed had cell phones.

"Even though a minority of teens sext - we only found 15% - but that 15% are much riskier with their physical sexual behaviors as well as their digital sexual behaviors," says Rice.

He add that teens who reported sexting were seven times more likely to be sexually active than their peers who did not sext.

The data suggests there are norms about sexting, according to Rice, meaning teens are starting to think that sexting is a normal part of their behaviors. More than half of the teens surveyed reported that they had a friend who sexted.

"A lot of young people think that their friends are sexting, and if you think that your friends are sexting, you're much more likely to sext yourself," he said - 17 times more likely, according to study.

"I think that the implications are that teens who are sexting may be at greater risk for sexually transmitted diseases because the teens who sext are about 1.5 times more likely to not use condoms when they're having sex," in addition to increasing the risk of teen pregnancy, Rice says.

This study was conducted in only one urban area; the authors realize that some of the results may not accurately represent rural areas. In addition, recent nationwide research found much lower rates of sexting.

However, Rice said this information can be valuable for parents.

"We [parents, clinicians, educators] should be talking about sexting and the fact that it's part of the risky sex behaviors and it's not just something that exists in a virtual space, so to speak," he said.

"Talking about sexting might be easier for [parents] than talking about sex and it could lead into a larger conversation about sex."


soundoff (49 Responses)
  1. Captian

    So you are saying kids who sext and send nude pics of themselves to each other are more likely to have sex? Wow, way to go out on a limb.

    September 17, 2012 at 08:19 | Report abuse | Reply
    • weezer

      Yes...and these people are EXPERTS.

      Their next study is why bears sh1t in the woods.

      September 17, 2012 at 08:30 | Report abuse |
    • Sylar75

      In other news, teens that consume alcohol are more likely to get drunk.

      September 17, 2012 at 14:18 | Report abuse |
    • VR13

      Don't try to sound smart. The key word was they are likely to engage in more RISKY sexual behavior, without thinking much of consequences. Sounding funny doesn't make you sound smarter.

      September 17, 2012 at 14:23 | Report abuse |
    • Squeezebox

      I think any kid who's comfortable sending naked pictures of him/her self is already having sex. Like 99.9% of the kids who sext are sexually active.

      September 17, 2012 at 18:04 | Report abuse |
    • T.rex

      VR13, the point is that there is nothing to show that one actually leads to the other... Its as simple as saying that kids who are having sex (risky or not), are also likely to sext. Of course there will be more risky behavior in that control group, because there is more sexual behavior in that control group.

      September 17, 2012 at 18:05 | Report abuse |
    • Bill

      Did you know an obese person eats more than the average person?

      September 17, 2012 at 21:17 | Report abuse |
    • Joe

      What exactly is sexting? If I send a text message asking whats for dinner is that "foodexting"? Or if I send a text message asking for directions does that have some stupid name? There aren't different schools of text messaging. Just deranged old people trying to fit in with the kids.

      What an awful article.

      September 18, 2012 at 10:24 | Report abuse |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      @ Joe
      Sexting is the new scapegoat. It used to be video games and before that rock & roll and before that alcohol. Fundies always need something to worry about and blame when people act like people.

      September 18, 2012 at 13:54 | Report abuse |
  2. captain obvious

    Wait...you mean teenagers have SEX?

    September 17, 2012 at 08:42 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. DalcassianKnight

    How much of our tax dollars did this study cost us. Glad to see our hard earned money isn't going to waste.

    September 17, 2012 at 08:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Victor

    Can we do the same study on adults?..do couples who sext also have more sex or does it just become a replacement for sex...that would be an interestng study. This study is just stating the obvious.

    September 17, 2012 at 09:49 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Squeezebox

      Let's see if adults who sext are more or less likely to be monogamous. Are they cheating?

      September 17, 2012 at 18:05 | Report abuse |
  5. Mark@maryland

    To the first sentence of this article. "If your adolescent is sexting, they may be already sexually active and engaging in risky behavior, a new study suggests."

    Who'da thought? I guess the studies are done on simple deductive reasoning these days. But I guess that is why they make the big bucks. "smart people with degrees (gotta love em).

    September 17, 2012 at 09:50 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. dds

    Why do we pay for studies to prove the obvious? This is sad. No wonder we are bankrupt.

    September 17, 2012 at 09:56 | Report abuse | Reply
    • J. P. DeMeritt

      dds asked, "Why do we pay for studies to prove the obvious?" We pay for these studies because the obvious isn't always correct. Furthermore, we may think we know the answer, but we need more details. I'm sure you weren't suprized to learn that teens who sext are more likely to be sexually active - but 17 times more likely? That's important information.

      By the way - the story didn't say who paid for the study. It may well have been a private foundation, not the government.

      September 17, 2012 at 12:27 | Report abuse |
    • VR13

      Thank you J D. And another reason we do it do see if any particular behavior or pattern might require correction or a counter act.

      September 17, 2012 at 14:26 | Report abuse |
  7. Pat

    In other news, people who text while driving are more likely to die in a car crash. More to come at 6pm!

    September 17, 2012 at 11:34 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Renee

    In the broadcast it said something about retrieving deleted texts... how do you do that... ???

    September 17, 2012 at 12:47 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. Allison Powers

    Duh. How much did we spend on this study? We should have a group that looks at studies to see if common sense would suffice instead of wasting time and energy on these things.

    September 17, 2012 at 12:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. E.C. Charles

    Every time I read comments people post online leaves me wondering when, if ever we as a nation will ever be better informed or dissect information properly. It is 100% true that kids who engage in sexting or have friends who are sexually active will have sex earlier in their lives. Does every study conducted is by the government? This goes to show when ignorance uses a computer the damage they can cause.

    September 17, 2012 at 13:00 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Rod K

    This study is stupid NOT because it states the obvious, but they treat sexting like the cause, not a symptom. Teenagers that are sexually active MIGHT engage in sexting. Those that aren't sexually active are very unlikely to sext. Sexting doesn't lead to sexual activity, but sexual activity might lead to sexting. Cause and effect aren't clearly stated here, causing worried parents to think that their teenager having a cell phone might lead to sex.

    September 17, 2012 at 13:03 | Report abuse | Reply
    • VR13

      Good point. You are among the minority posters who looks at the article rather than just bash it from the first line. However, I don't think the article gives enough information about what is the cause and what is the symptom. It's even possible that one feeds another – you get sex, you sext, the more you sext, the stupider you got while having sex. It's even possible that the entire study indeed was to learn the cause-effect links but you can't conclude it from the article.

      September 17, 2012 at 14:31 | Report abuse |
    • DarkForest

      Finally, someone who actually puts some thought into a comment! You're awesome!

      September 17, 2012 at 16:29 | Report abuse |
    • GP

      Only the way it is said is different, but what it means is same. This article means, what a parent would suspect is almost true, don't waste time by checking.

      September 18, 2012 at 00:10 | Report abuse |
  12. Portland tony

    "Studies" have also shown that teens who have regular bowel movements are less likely to be constipated than teens who have none. The fact that a graduate student wrote his Doctor's thesis on teen sexting doesn't mean it's a worthwhile study!

    September 17, 2012 at 13:04 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. Amniculi

    Duh...?

    September 17, 2012 at 13:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. Patrick Lewis

    I didn't realize that Rick Romero started writing for CNN.

    September 17, 2012 at 15:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. BJ

    Of course they picked a control group (blacks and latinos in LA) already know to be sexually active at an early age.

    September 17, 2012 at 16:33 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. chad

    nothing turns me on more than a hot 18 year old sending me nude pictures. stop acting like you dont like it. if you dont you're either a prude or a religious fanatic therefore your opinions don't matter.

    September 17, 2012 at 19:28 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. Geo

    My question is ... How why is sending nude pictures called sexting? Seriously, nudity and sex are not exclusive. Someone was just ' clever' enough to do a rhyme.

    September 17, 2012 at 21:17 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Mike

      This way the government can put somebody in jail.

      September 18, 2012 at 14:46 | Report abuse |
  18. larry5

    A followup to this study reports that teen girls that take off all their clothes are more likely to be naked then those that don't. Addition funding will be required to very these results and volunteer observers are being recruited to confirm these results.

    September 18, 2012 at 00:56 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. retarded

    nobody actually does this "sexting" bulls­h­it

    September 18, 2012 at 02:06 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. LizardLance

    Get rid of the damn cell phones and you get rid of sexting and texting while driving! Too many of you are controlled by your electronic devices - cell phones, laptops, iPads, and so on. You are nothing but screwed up slaves! Two-million orders for IPhone5 in one day. Pathetic. Get a life people!

    September 18, 2012 at 04:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. Geoff

    Who here will admit to peeking in on penguins during their mating? I know it's most of you who have done it. They have sex and it's not because of sexting. And why is sexting a problem? Is it because our society is leaning toward that of some Puritanical state where a woman's exposed leg may be seen as obscene at the rate we're going? The Taliban would be proud of the ultra-conservatives among us, including the Tea Party and Paul Ryan.

    September 18, 2012 at 05:22 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Galih

      In need of: British man seeking regufe within a American girls soul. I don't choose to use anyone, I'm not wish t female wants men hat, so if we have a connection there, that'd be a lot better. do you have what can be done?. I am sooo happy thinking about the possibilites of this, I hope to hear from you. 51373

      October 14, 2012 at 01:13 | Report abuse |
  22. William1956

    People need to wake up and realize that kids want to have sex and some have sex. Just because someone says kids are not suppose to have sex until they reach a certain age does not stop kids from having sex.

    September 18, 2012 at 07:34 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. KuestCran

    I know the findings of the study sound obvious. But thats how science work. nothing is a fact until test and experiments are done. there is a (scientific) method to the madness

    September 18, 2012 at 08:22 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. PutOneWorryToRest

    "Researchers are trying to better understand if young people are at greater risk for HIV or other sexually transmitted diseases because they are sending sexually explicit photos or text messages via cell phone." Although this article didn't distinguish between exposure to HIV and infected by HIV it doesn't matter. One can't be exposed to or infected with HIV by sexting with someone who does have HIV, unless one is sexting the person while simultaneously exposing themselves to their bodily fluids. Viewing risque pictures and sending texts is, on its own, a very safe form of sex. Sorry to spoil next week's CNN exclusive but you can't get pregnant via sexting either.

    September 18, 2012 at 12:29 | Report abuse | Reply
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    September 21, 2012 at 04:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. Greg

    What a f****** joke this is. People are right – OUR TAXPAYERS DOLLARS GO TOWARDS THIS BULLS***?!?! What is wrong with us anymore – how have we allowed this to happen?!?

    October 23, 2012 at 22:21 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. Greg

    No s*** that teens who are sending explicit texts (more bold digital behaviors) will engage in more bold activities in real life!!! I guess the "scientists" need to tell us this. WHERE HAS COMMON SENSE GONE?! Where are the wise grandparents, mothers, fathers, etc. in society? You know, figures of authority who can actually impart this wisdom for free instead of these stupid scientists who need our dollars for this s***?

    October 23, 2012 at 22:25 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. Dan

    Another study found that water is wet.

    October 24, 2012 at 09:27 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. warnercc

    So these are the types of jobs that Obama has been creating!

    October 25, 2012 at 09:37 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. jea

    tl;dnr but just want to say DUH!

    October 29, 2012 at 12:43 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. Jeff Lenney

    If you ask me, Teens should NOT be "sexting" – however for adults it's perfectly healthy and fun – but it does help if they have some Sexting Examples to help them get started

    December 10, 2012 at 04:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. Lucía Scoth

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    December 24, 2013 at 09:11 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. Geoff

    Incest and child molestation is more predominant in southern evangelical Christian family homes than other groups? Really? Better check your facts, and then go watch penguins mating.

    September 19, 2012 at 02:45 | Report abuse | Reply

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