By Erin Hesselink
Sext (v): to send (someone) sexually suggestive photographs or messages via cell phone

According to a recent study done by University of Southern California researchers, 20 per cent of middle school students have received a sext, and five per cent have sent one. Almost every teen has a cellphone, so it’s extremely easy for them to take part in this seemingly harmless way of flirting.

However, the behaviour doesn’t stop there. Teens that send or receive sexts are six times more likely to report having sex. Teens under the age of 15 are four times more likely to report having sex.

The study, which anonymously surveyed over 1,300 middle school students, ranging in age 10-15, in Los Angeles and was a part of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s Youth Risk Behaviour Survey also showed that if teens are sending over 100 texts per day, they are more likely to be sexually active.

Why? Teens who text over 100 times per day are more than twice as likely to have received a sext and almost five times as likely to send one.

Taking action
“Parents need to start talking to their kids about sexting as soon as they give their kids a cellphone,” says Eric Rice, lead author and assistant professor at the USC School of Social Work.

To prevent or limit the availability teens have to sext, Rice recommends monitoring your teen’s cellphone, checking in with them about who they are texting and possibly restricting their number of texts allowed per month.
“Parents should not be afraid of being invasive,” says Rice. “Their primary responsibility should be to the health and safety of their children. Being a good parent often means setting limits.”