It is something every parent needs to know. Almost 30 percent of teens between the ages of 13 and 18 admit to emailing or texting nude pictures of themselves, according to a study by the University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB) at Galveston. 

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Out of nearly 1,000 students surveyed, researchers found that 28 percent of them have emailed or texted a nude photo of themselves.  Fifty-seven percent have been asked to send a naked picture of themselves and 31 percent admit to requesting a nude photo to be sent to them.

Based on the study results, sexting may now be simply another part of growing up, according to researchers.

“We now know that teen sexting is fairly common,” said Jeff Temple, an associate professor and psychologist at UTMB, in a press release on UTMB's website.   “For instance, sexting may be associated with other typical adolescent behaviors such as substance use. Sexting is not associated with either good or poor mental well being.”

According to the findings, sexting may precede sexual intercourse, and sexting is not associated with risky sexual behaviors.  However, researchers did find that those teenagers that engaged in sexting were more likely to have had sex than students who had not participated or experienced sexting.

The reasons for sexting are different for girls and boys, according to Parry Aftab, executive director of WiredSafety and founder of StopCyberbullying.  She said girls might take photos to attract older boys.

"They also may take them out of anger to get back at a boyfriend that may have gotten them mad. Sometimes they take them because they've been drinking or doing drugs and aren't in full control of their faculties or their friends are doing it.  Sometimes they're doing it to keep the boy away a little longer. As he wants to get into full sexual activities, she will often offer him a topless picture to hold him off a little longer."

On the other hand, boys generally take explicit photos when they are in a relationship or when they want to show someone what they are missing, according to Aftab. Unfortunately, in many cases boys will take a picture thinking they are sending it to a girl, when in fact, it is a male who is pretending to be a girl. "When it comes out and the person they sent it to is a boy, they'll say 'I'll tell everyone unless you send me more pictures,'" she said.

When coming up with solutions, all teens cannot be treated the same.

"Some need to be warned that if they take the image, share the image or keep a copy of the image, it violates the federal law and many state laws. You can talk about reputation and what it means if your grandmother is going to get a hold of this picture," Aftab said. "Sometimes you just need to recognize that kids at that age are inspired by hormones and passions and impulsive technology."

While a cooperative effort has to be established between parents, schools and law enforcement, the real solution has to come down to the kids. They have to be taught to look out for one another and to be responsible.

"It also would help if schools had a system of procedures and policies in place when those kinds of images are discovered," Aftab said. "In the meantime, it's OK for parents to spot check their teens phones, report sexual images when they see them and delete them."









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