Once again, the headlines have jumped all over the sexting behavior of teens, implying that they are irresponsible, that sexting is some kind of gateway drug to sexuality intercourse, and that parents should be afraid—very afraid. The latest headlines included: Sexting Linked to Sexual Activity in Teens, Teen Sexting Linked to Real World Risky Sexual Behavior, and Sexting Teens More Likely to Be Having Unprotected Sex. These headlines all reference a new study that appears in the October issue of Pediatrics. It found that teens who sext were more likely to be sexually active and more likely to have had unprotected sex than teens who did not sext. Before we panic and lock up our teens or their smartphones, it’s important to look closely at the study and remember that what it found was simply correlations, not causation. A part of me wants to say, um duh, or as a colleague put it, that’s kind of like a headline saying “Beer Linked to Drinking Among College Students.” The finding was neither particularly surprising, nor particularly enlightening. Still, we can look closely at the new report and see what it found.
Researchers attached a secondary questionnaire to the Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance Survey (YRBS) that was given to high school students in the Los Angeles Unified School District, asking about their sexting behavior. The YRBS is an anonymous survey, so researchers could not connect the answers on the secondary survey cheap male vibrators to those on the complete YRBS. Therefore, their survey asked for demographic information and repeated some questions about sexual behavior. Unlike the YRBS itself, the secondary survey also asked students whether they considered themselves to be heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual, transgender, questioning, or unsure of their sexual orientation.
The survey found:
75 percent of respondents reported owning a cell phone and using it every day.More than 15 percent of respondents with cell phones reported ever sending a “sexually explicit message or photo.”41 percent of respondents with cell phones had ever had oral, vaginal, or anal sex, and 64 percent of these used a condom the last time they had sex.
Additional analysis by the researchers found:
African-American students were more likely than their peers to have sent sexts, as were students who identified as LGBTQ.Students who knew someone who had sent a sext were 17 times more likely to have sent a sext themselves than their peers, who said they did not know anyone who had sexted.Respondents who had sent a sext were statistically significantly more likely to have ever engaged in sexual intercourse and “exhibited a trend toward unprotected sex during their last sexual encounter.”
The authors conclude that this data “reveal that sexting is associated with physical sexual risk taking. Unlike work that has suggested that sexting is a low risk or healthy alternative to sexual risk taking, we find that there is a clustering of sexual risk behaviors which includes sexting.”
The authors do note some limitations. First, they point out that their study took place in a large urban school district whose students may not be representative of students in most towns and cities across the country. They also note anal toys that they did not distinguish between oral, anal, and vaginal intercourse; nor did they define “sexually explicit.
ry to get away from the abuser and/or call for help so other people become aware of the situation.
Child abuse data show that the majority of children keep abuse a secret, Knaff said. That means it is even more important that parents not only talk to their children about what child abuse is and emphasize that it is never the child’s fault. Abuse is always wrong, and children should report it to a trusted adult. Parents need to keep the lines of communication open and seek out their children whenever they feel like something is going on with their child or their child is behaving differently in some way from usual.
To encourage children to report any abuse, parents should let the child know about two or three people designated as safe adults the child can talk to if he or she suffers abuse or feels unsafe.
Children need to know who they can talk to, Knaff said. They also need to be encouraged to tell what happened to them to more than one person and keep telling until someone believes them and does something about it.
Knaff also recommends parents specifically teach their children to report any touching that feels uncomfortable or wrong, even if it is by a family member, teacher, coach, pastor or church official, youth group leader or another child.
How to talk to your child about sexual abuse: ■Tell your child about good touch — a hug or a pat on the back — and bad to.
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