More high school students are sending and receiving sext messages or photos, and that makes them more likely to engage in other types of sexual activity as well. Now researchers say the same trends are trickling down to younger students in middle school, according to a study published in the journal Pediatrics.
The new study found that a significant number of adolescents between ages 12 and 14 sext, and that these children are more likely to kiss, have oral sex or sexual intercourse than their counterparts who did not send such explicit messages.
The study surveyed 420 seventh grade students from five urban public middle schools in Rhode Island. The students answered several yes/no questions that ranged from “In the last six months have you texted someone a sexual message to flirt with them?” to whether or not they participated in a variety of sexual activities from kissing to intercourse and whether they had casual or serious romantic partners.
The results revealed that 22% of the students sexted, with 17% sending text messages only and 5% sending both texts and explicit photos. More concerning, say the scientists, was that sexting was associated with a higher likelihood of sexual behaviors such as touching genitals, oral sex, and vaginal sex. According to the study authors, teens who sexted were four to seven times more likely to also partake in sexual activities. Students that admitted to sending pictures showed even higher rates of sexual activity.
The sexting adolescents also reported that they felt family members and peers were more likely to approve of various sexual activities. And they admitted to higher rates of intending to engage in sexual acts than their non-sexting friends.