You’ve seen them – teens who pass their fingertips quickly over the buttons on their cell phones like butterflies dancing over Black-Eyed Susans. You’ve heard of sexting – teens sending sexual messages and photos and then suffering from their impulsive behavior in regretful, emotional and dangerous ways. You may have even warned them, but does what they send over the the airwaves really reflect their sexual behaviors? According to a recent survey, the answer is yes.
Eric Rice, a researcher from the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, revealed in the journal Pediatrics that one out of every seven Los Angeles teens who were surveyed has sent a sexually explicit text message or photo, and that those who had sent the explicit material were seven times more likely to be sexually active than non-”sexters.”
Perhaps even more alarming is that his research 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.
What’s the take-home message here? Parents, teachers, peers, EVERYONE needs to pay attention, continually talk about the dangers of sexting and, above all, we need to talk about sexuality (age-appropriately) BEFORE children are allowed to have cell phones. We need to keep the lines of communication open, honest and timely. We need to avoid “the big talk” and, instead, have many little talks throughout their childhood and adolescence. We need to teach responsibility and consequences. We need to teach our young people that how they feel is normal and that there are ways to express themselves in ways that are safer than sending nude pictures into “never never land.”