By Lisa Cannon Green
Exchanging sexually explicit photos and messages may be emerging as a normal part of growing up, an analysis by a leading medical journal suggests.
About 15 percent of youth send sexts and more than 27 percent receive them, JAMA Pediatrics reported this week after analyzing 39 studies with more than 110,000 participants.
Rates of sexting are higher in more recent studies, a sign the practice is on the increase, the medical journal said.
“Youth sexting may be an emerging, and potentially normal, component of sexual behavior and development,” JAMA Pediatrics’ analysis said.
However, about 1 in 8 youths say they have either forwarded or had a sext forwarded without consent, a practice the study noted “can lead to harassment by peers, cyberbullying, or blackmailing.”
And sexting can begin early. Kids typically get their first smartphones at 10.3 years old, the analysis pointed out, and a study of 10- to 11-year-olds found 1 percent had appeared in, created, or received nude images.
Joshua Straub, marriage and family strategist at LifeWay Christian Resources, urges parents and church leaders to educate young people about the risks of sexting.
“I often hear, ‘My son/daughter would never do that,’” Straub wrote. However, sexting “is far more common than many leaders think—yes, even among the most faithful of students in our youth ministries.”
LISA CANNON GREEN (@lisaccgreen) is senior editor of Facts & Trends.