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A study by the University of California finds sexting increases sexual activity among youth. Students selected for the study were middle school-aged. Study results were shared with Reuters Health. It makes sense that exposure to sexual activity through videos, movies, and unlimited and unsupervised Internet access can awaken sexual feelings in youth.
Over 1,300 middle school students were sampled anonymously from Los Angeles schools. The students ages 10-15 took part in the Center for Disease and Control Prevention’s Youth Risk Behavior Survey.
According to the study director Eric Rice, middle-school aged children who sext are also experimenting beyond phone messages, and at earlier ages. He suggests the fall-out from sexting be incorporated into health sex-education curriculum.
This is sure to be met with outrage from parents who do not believe sex education belongs in school at all. If the issue is not addressed, health practitioners and advocates of prevention will see an increase in teen sexual activity resulting from ignoring the fact that technology can have serious backlash when not handled responsibly.
Kids between the ages of 11 and 13 are sending over 100 text messages daily. At least 40 percent of the age group is actively involved with a phone that allows sending and receiving text messages. This opens the door for risky behavior that can easily include “hook-ups” for sexual activity. The volume of texts received daily increases the chances of sexting, which likewise increases the number of kids at-risk for having sexual activity due to exposure.
Parents are responsible for monitoring phone and text behavior. It is not enough to buy a phone so that parents feel connected, responsible behavior has to be included as part of the package. Middle school is not the time to be best friends with kids. The tween years are emotional roller-coaster rides and ones in which youths need direction and guidance as they learn to accept greater responsibility. Connecting electronically may help with busy schedules and check-ins, but they have to include boundaries as well.
According to researchers, monitoring of cell phones includes getting into kid’s business. Yes, ask who they are talking to, who they are texting, and what the conversation is about. Sit down with them and explain even if it is uncomfortable as a parent, that a phone is a privilege and not a right, and that having a phone comes with rules. When the rules are not followed the phone should be taken away.
Sexting involves the texting of pictures of intimate body parts and illicit and suggestive conversation which involves sexual content. It is that simple, the freedom of an unsupervised phone line can become complex when risk issues are not addressed. School is out for summer and there are hook-ups and daily parties that working parents may have no clue about.
It is enough that text messages are easily coded so parental units are locked out of what the real messages are. Even if one believes their middle school-aged kid to be innocent and naïve about sex there are friends eager to share pertinent information that they may be trying out for themselves. Researches suggest parents become actively involved in monitoring cell phone use of children. As an aside, it would be wise to continue the practice with older youth as well.
Findings also indicate that the conversation around texting and sexting be on-going. It should not be looked at as a one time thing that is had where a sigh of relief is breathed because an uncomfortable situation is now “handled.”
Christopher Houck, is on staff in Providence at Rhode Island Hospital where he heads-up the Bradley Hasbro Children’s Research Center. He was not involved in the latest research but says, “Strategies to handle sex talks can be hard for parents.” He notes that using life situations stemming from the environment and what is going on with kids are good starting points. Bottom line, middle school-aged kids are sexting at rates that parents may be unaware of and it is leading to a rise in sexual activity among those who take part. Many of these kids report having unprotected sex. It is worth taking the time to talk openly as uncomfortable as it may be.
Opinion by C. Imani Williams