Educators have to now move on to teaching teenagers about sexting. In a paper published in the Journal of Adolescent Health, researchers found that although sexting is not very common among teenagers, it can have significantly harmful long-term consequences. Noting that asking for abstinence can be counter-productive, the paper recommends a more comprehensive research-oriented approach that covers consent, motivations, complications, and deflection strategies.
The researchers gathered their data from a national sample of around 5,000 youths (age 12 to 17-year-olds) in April 2019. They found that the number of teenagers engaged in sexting was 14 percent, of whom 23 percent had received sexually explicit images. Although this figure is quite low, it is steadily rising from the team’s baseline research in 2016 by 13 and 22 percent respectively.
The researchers found that sexting can have long-term social, legal and psychological impacts. There is an increased association with cyberbullying victimization and participating in risky behavior. Many teenagers have also found themselves in legal trouble with a loss of reputation. However, abstinence or fearful messages can be counter-productive. So, the team recommended a more direct and casual approach which tells them about the right way to handle such messages, their legal, and social ramifications. The information should also teach them about different ways to avoid or deflect sexting requests.