Washington: Sexting irks teenagers, but 30 per cent of them anyway "sext" nude pictures of themselves to others, a new study in the US has found.
The study of nearly 1,000 teens aged between 14 and 19 years in Texas found that sexting is common among this age group with nearly 28 per cent of them admitting that they had sent nude pictures of themselves through electronic means.
While 31 per cent of teens said they had asked for a nude picture to be sent to them, 57 per cent said they were asked for such sexts, researchers found.
The study, published in journal Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, also found that teen sexters are more likely to report being sexually active than their non-sexing counterparts, and that in girls, at least, sexting is linked to risky sexual behaviours.
"It appears that sexting is a modern version of 'show me yours and I'll show you mine,' but the commonness of the behaviour does not condone its occurrence," study author Jeff Temple of the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston was quoted as saying by LiveScience.
"On the contrary, we found teens are generally bothered by being asked to send a naked picture. In fact, nearly all girls were bothered by having been asked, and among boys, more than half were bothered at least a little," he said.
The researchers also found that teens who sexted were more likely to be engaging in real-life sexual activities.
For teen girls, sexting was a red flag for particularly risky sexual behaviours, such as using drugs or alcohol before sex or having multiple partners, they said.
It may be that for boys, sexting is seen as normal and positive, but girls who sext may face a stigma of promiscuity or sluttiness, Temple said. So risking their reputation by sending nude texts may be a sign that they're willing to take other risks as well, he added.
Because teen sexting involves sending sexually explicit images of minors, it can technically be prosecuted under child pornography laws. Temple said that his team's findings suggest that's a bad idea.
"If our findings were extrapolated nationally, under most existing laws several million teens would be prosecutable for child pornography or other sexual crimes," he said.
"Resources currently used to criminally punish teen sexting could instead be diverted to prevention and education programmes focusing on reducing risky sex behaviours among adolescents," he added.