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'Sexting' May Go Hand-in-Hand With Unprotected Sex Among Teens
Date:9/17/2012

By Maureen Salamon
HealthDay Reporter

MONDAY, Sept. 17 (HealthDay News) -- Teens who "sext" sexually explicit texts or images are probably taking other sexual risks as well, with new research indicating these adolescents are seven times more likely to be sexually active and significantly more apt to be having unprotected sex.

Analyzing self-reported behaviors of more than 1,800 Los Angeles students aged 12 to 18 (most were between 14 and 17), researchers found that 15 percent with cell phones acknowledged sexting and 54 percent knew someone who had sent a sext. Rarely was sexting the only sexually risky behavior involved.

"It's surprising in some ways that sexting isn't an alternative to risky sexual behaviors, it's part of the [same] landscape," said study author Eric Rice, an assistant professor in the School of Social Work at the University of Southern California. "I don't want to be alarmist, but I do think that parents who suspect their kids are sexting should be aware of the probability their kids are involved in other sexual behavior as well. They probably should worry insofar as it's likely their teens are sexually active and not using birth control."

The study is published online Sept. 17 and in the October print issue of the journal Pediatrics.

Previous studies on sexting indicated similar rates of participation among teenagers, but the new research is purportedly the first to examine any association between sexting and sexual activity.

Participants were mostly Latino/Hispanic, 87 percent identified as straight and nearly three-quarters reported owning a cell phone and using it every day.

Youths whose friends sexted were 17 times more likely to sext themselves -- viewing it as a "normal" behavior -- and non-heterosexual students were more than twice as likely to report sexting than their heterosexual peers.

"The students we talk to said texting has been associated
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