What else you need to know before you panic
You’ve probably read about the new teen sexting research journal published yesterday in JAMA Pediatrics: About one in four teenagers have received a “sext”, a text message with sexual content, and about one in seven have sent one. The results are solid and come from a review of more than three dozen studies. But most of the media reporting on the study – and apparently alarmed about it – did not delve into the challenges of studying texting, what we still don’t know (A LOT) and why we should take a deep dive. breathing before panicking about the results. .
What did the study find?
Researchers found that 15% of teens sent a sext and 27% received one. Unsurprisingly, the older the teens, the more likely they were to send or receive a sext. What’s more, the frequency of sexting among teens has increased over the past decade, not surprisingly, as possession and use of cellphones has also increased among teens. (Most of the sexting took place on cell phones, although some involved computers as well.)
Potentially more concerning figures are that 12% of teens said they sent a sext without the permission of the person they received it from, and 8% of teens forwarded one of their sext without giving their consent.
How did the study go?
The researchers analyzed the results of 39 studies involving 110,380 adolescents aged 12 to 17 years. The studies were published between 2009 and 2016 and most (34) measured the number of teens who sent sexts. Twenty others measured having received them, five considered transmitting them without consent, and four examined having a sext transmitted without consent.
What are the risks of sexting?
According to a parenting tip sheet in the same journal, “The risks include emotional distress for those who are pressured to send these photos as well as for those who receive these photos. Sexting can also cause harm if photos are widely distributed, increasing distress or embarrassment. “
The tip sheet also notes that sexting can have legal repercussions, but few courts prosecute it, especially since the possibility of a lifetime sex offender tag – potentially for sending a half-photo once naked from you to your boyfriend or girlfriend – can destroy a person’s life.
Why do teens sext?
If this is a serious question, you have never met a teenager and seem to have forgotten all about your teenage years. But if so, here’s what the experts have to say in their tip sheet for parents in JAMA Pediatrics: “Adolescence is a period in life when adolescents learn to know their own body, to take risks and to romantic attractions. For some teens, engaging in sexting can seem like a way to explore their attraction to someone.
What should parents do about it?
Talk to your kids, but be reasonable, keep some perspective, and consider the real risks of different circumstances. For example, consider this statement from the study: “A higher rate in older youth is expected and generally corresponds to the age of sexual identity and exploration, which lends credence to the idea. that sexting among young people may be an emerging and potentially normal component. sexual behavior and development. See how much we still don’t know below.
What data are we missing the most?
We know next to nothing about teen sexts. The only study that looked at sexting in under-12s was in 2010-2011, which might as well be a century ago in the digital age. Of particular importance is the frequency of sexting in this age group: “Relationships between tweens are often transient, which can make them more vulnerable to sending sexts without consent,” the authors wrote. “Additionally, given their relative cognitive naivety, pre-teens may be particularly vulnerable to sextortion (i.e. a host of risky behaviors and negative consequences.
But here’s the problem: sexting is REALLY difficult to study, too difficult to draw general conclusions yet.
The numbers in this study are only a small part of the picture. If your 12-year-old sends photos of their naked body, yes, that’s a great reason to be concerned, and you should regularly discuss the risks of this behavior with your children (like it’s on the front page). ). from Reddit). But here’s what those numbers obscure:
What counts as a sext?
There is no standard definition in research or everyday experience. For some, this is any gender-related message, even just written. Does telling a hot joke by text count as a sext? Or does it have to discuss some body part or behavior of the sender or recipient? Or does it have to be an explicit invitation?
For others, a sext should include a sexually explicit photo or video. But again: does he have to show full nudity, or is partial nudity or suggestive clothing, such as lingerie covering all relevant elements, also sexting? Does the photo have to be that of the sender, the recipient or someone they know? Or does any kind of sexual content – a porn video or a link to a video – count as a sext? Does a link to a porn video only count if it is accompanied by additional comments from the sender?
There is no consensus on these answers, but it is important. “Psychologically, it’s likely that the importance of sending nude photos or videos is quite different from sending sexualized text,” write Elizabeth Englander, PhD, and Meghan McCoy, EdD, in an accompanying editorial. Still, the study authors noted that most studies combine the two types of sexting, making it harder to draw meaningful conclusions.
What are the specific risks of certain types of sexting in specific populations?
Sexting has been linked to a greater likelihood of risky sexual behavior, such as unprotected sex, but are these behaviors associated with all types of sexting, or just those involving photos of the sender, or only photos of the recipient, or…? Are the risks higher or lower for girls compared to boys compared to adolescents who do not identify as male or female? Do the risks vary according to sexual preferences?
Take the example of a 17-year-old girl who texts her 17-year-old boyfriend, “I can’t wait to get my hands back in your pants. Or her text saying he “can’t wait to touch her breasts again.” How worried should parents be about those text messages, without pictures? Does it matter if the two have been dating for two weeks or two years? Does the answer change if they are 16? Or 15? What are they more likely to do? Or does it just mean they already have?
Englander and McCoy also addressed this point: “Although several studies have noted that sexting within an existing relationship is potentially very different from sexting between single people, it is difficult to clarify the nature of often transient adolescent relationships. “
Is all sexting a bad thing?
Could sexting have positive effects for those involved? What if it was just a different way of communicating what teens have been communicating with each other for centuries? Or what if it was a way to flirt without really taking things to the next level, especially if it doesn’t involve photos? There is some evidence that not everything is negative and even bad things are not that common.
“In a few studies, the researchers noted that most people who sexted viewed the experience positively and that the positive results appeared to be associated with sexting in established relationships,” the researchers wrote. “Other studies examining findings such as peer harassment or bullying, lost opportunities, issues with parents or school officials, or posting the photo online found these findings to be unusual. Most were approved by less than 5% of people who sent sext.
Obviously, non-consensual sexting is a bigger problem. Should it be viewed more directly as harassment? Is consensual sexting without any transmission something to wring your hands? Or does it depend on the specific content and medium (words, images, videos, etc.), the child’s age, relationship status, maturity and other factors?
At the end of the line : Any good study that attempts to answer one question will inspire others, and it certainly is here. The real result of this new study is that there’s a LOT we still don’t know about teens and sexting, and maybe we should take it slow until we know it.