Sexting is new normal for teens, not linked to risky behavior over time

More than one-quarter of teens in the U.S. engage in sexting and those who send explicit photos of themselves are more likely to become sexually active a year later, according to a study published on Monday. But the study, reported in the journal Pediatrics, did not find a link between the sending of sexually explicit photos and texts with risky sexual behavior over time. Only active sexting, which the study defined as sending an explicit photo, was correlated with an increased likelihood of sexual activity. Passive sexting, asking for or receiving a photo, was not.

I don’t think the behavior is new by any means, but the means by which we’re doing it is new and scary…because it can possibly be shared instantly with billions of people.

Jeff Temple of the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston

For parents and teachers, sexting among teens is troubling not only for reasons related to personal values surrounding sex, but because the photographs can be easily and widely shared. The posting of nude photos of celebrities such as actresses Jennifer Lawrence and Kate Upton on the Internet in September by an anonymous hacker, for instance, raised concerns about technology, security and privacy.