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Teen 'Sexting' Common and Linked to Psychological Woes
Date:11/2/2011

id he's received flak for suggesting on the center's website that kids don't always need to go to adults when sexting involves a friend (or girlfriend or boyfriend), but he still believes, "If you tell adults, you're throwing that person under a bus." Once people in authority, such as teachers and principals, are made aware of sexting, legal reporting requirements come into play.

"Adults, it seems, are forced to respond to sexting in extreme ways -- ways that have long-term, irreversible consequences," he posted in February. "Until we can develop reasonable responses that do not potentially foreclose on the futures of all involved, we are wise to advise that students do not contact adults, unless the situation is appearing to get out of control. And I think teens know when it is out of control."

Patchin doesn't discount that sexting can have serious ramifications. "You can look at high-profile examples, of people with severe psychological problems," he said, referring to two publicized cases of young girls committing suicide where sexting was a factor.

In his center's dealings with sexting, he said, "We've talked with frustrated, embarrassed, upset kids."

Merritt cautioned against overreacting about the findings and said she would like to see more data, for instance, on how sexting relates to teens' gender orientation.

Kessler Schneider's group does intend to do more studies in that area. For now, she said, the Boston findings should "draw attention to the link between sexting and mental health, which should be addressed by anti-bullying and health-promotion initiatives."

Because the new study was presented at a medical meeting, the data and conclusions should be viewed as preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.

More information

The Pew Research Center has more about teens and sexting.


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