Around one in four teenagers has sent venereal texts or emails, and those who have are about seven times more likely to have old-fashioned, body-on-body sex. Often it's "risky sex," and not in the good way.
Depending which of the recent self-reported studies you read, the number of teenagers who've emailed or texted illicit messages or photos of themselves is between 14 and 28%. A study yesterday in the journal Pediatrics called attention to an association between sexting and likelihood of having real (too-often unprotected) sex. In an interview with Reuters, lead researcher Dr. Eric Rice of the University of Southern California said, "Is there a link between sexting and taking risks with your body? The answer is a pretty resounding 'yes.'"
Should you talk to your kid about sexting? If they use a phone or the Internet and are alive, the answer is an even more resounding "yes." "Ye-Esss," if you will. Because sexting isn't just about pubescent curiosity and lust; it's also about trust, commitment, self-image, and acceptance -- the timeless issues of our formative years, and topics on which you're surely by now an expert.
Many states impose criminal penalties for sexting ("When minors send explicit images of themselves, they are manufacturing and distributing child pornography"), but felony charges against teenagers haven't played out, and privacy and technology limitations largely preclude policing. That leaves the issue to health and social educatiosn; a hurdle to be taken on the dressage horse that is parental intuition.