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Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism University of Southern California

Study Shows: Sexting is the New 'First Base' Among Teens

Students as young as 14 reported sending or asking for a sext.

A new study suggests that sexting, the practice of electronically sending sexually explicit images or messages, is the newest rite of passage for adolescents. 

Twenty-five percent of the almost 1,000 tenth and eleventh graders surveyed by Jeff Temple, associate professor and psychologist at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston, had sexted. Respondents were enrolled in one of seven different public high schools throughout southeast Texas.

While the study was conducted between 2011 and 2012, Temple said the findings could potentially be already considered somewhat outdated. Apps intended for sharing and communicating, such as Snapchat and Tinder, are constantly emerging, and as Temple puts it, “as more people get smartphones, more people sext.”

He even predicts the age of sexters will drop as younger children begin to own smartphones.

“I have a little sister, she’s in middle school, and she tells me about it,” said one USC student. “When I was a kid, we would play with toys. At my sister’s age...she has an iPhone, and she has access to the Internet, and it’s kind of scary.”

On the other side of the age spectrum, Temple pointed to other studies, which found that over 50 percent of college students and young adults sext.

The study concluded that kids who had sexted were more likely to have had sex over the next year, versus kids who hadn’t sexted. Temple considered this conclusion, that sexting might precede sexual behaviors, to be the most important revelation of the study.

With this knowledge, programs intended on curbing risky sexual behaviors can be targeted towards kids who have sexted, said Temple in a Google Plus interview with ATVN. Parents and school officials who catch their students sexting can more accurately time conversations about safe sex, he added.


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