One out of every seven Los Angeles high schoolers with a cell phone has sent a sexually-explicit text message or photo, according to results of a 2011 survey that also found "sexters" more likely to engage in risky sex behaviors.
In the new study, the LA teens who had sent racy texts were seven times more likely to be sexually active than those who said they'd never sexted.
The findings, published in the journal Pediatrics, are based on 1,839 students in Los Angeles high schools, most of whom were Latino. Three-quarters of them owned a cell phone that they used regularly.
A study of Houston, Texas, high schoolers out earlier this summer found one in four teens had sent a naked photo of themselves through text message or email, and those kids were also much more likely to be having risky sex.
Jeff Temple, a psychologist and women's health researcher from The University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston who worked on the Houston study, found that girls in particular who'd sent naked photos were more likely to engage in risky sex, to have had multiple recent sex partners or to use alcohol and drugs before sex. "Sexting appears to be a reflection or an indication of actual sexual behavior," Temple said. "What they're doing in their offline lives is what they're doing in their online lives."
Eric Rice, a social network researcher from the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, who led the new study, agreed that this was the most important finding to take away from both studies. "That may be a no-brainer to some parents, but it may be alarming to others," he said.