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

with an existing romantic relationship or interest, so I think it makes sense that these kinds of behaviors are happening, for the most part, within an existing relationship and not something out of the blue," said Justin Patchin, co-director of the Cyberbullying Research Center at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. He was not involved in the study.

Patchin and Rice agreed the findings are an opportunity for parents to broach the subject with children and discuss the consequences. If they find out their own kids are sexting, they may want to measure the individual circumstances before deciding how to react, said Patchin, also an associate professor of criminal justice.

"It's one thing if it's your 17-year-old who's been in a committed relationship with a person for a long time . . . vs. a 13-year-old sending inappropriate pictures to a person they're interested and who they've never had a relationship with," he said.

"I certainly don't want to condone sexting among any teenager, but we need to understand the continuum of relationships and behaviors," Patchin added. "The main thing is that parents need to educate kids and talk about consequences -- [such as] that they can never be sure someone else won't see those images or texts."

Shari Kessel Schneider, a senior research associate at the Education Development Center in Newton, Mass., said the findings also highlight a need for physicians and educators to "be aware that youth who are sexting may need additional education and guidance related to adolescent sexuality and safe and responsible Internet use."

"While some have suggested that sexting may be a safe alternative to sexual behavior, it is not surprising that these online behaviors are entangled in teens' face-to-face interactions," said Schneider, who led a study on sexting and depression among Boston-area youth. "If a parent finds out their child is sexting, it's an important opportunity to engage their son or dau
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