Research that has just been released by the Education Development Center in Massachusetts is linking sexting to some pretty serious psychological problems.
The study, which sampled 23,000 students in the Boston area, found that "sexting can include overtones of bullying and coercion, and teens who are involved were more likely to report being psychologically distressed, depressed or even suicidal."
In fact, twice as many teens who reported sexting in the past year had depressive symptoms, compared to teens that said they didn't sext. When you talk about suicide attempts, the trend is similar. 13 percent of sexting teens reported an attempt in the last year, compared to only 3% of non-sexting kids.
Of course, "sexting" can mean a lot of different things to different people - like the sending of explicit photos or even just having explicit conversations. For the purposes of this study, "sexting" was defined as sending or posting sexually suggestive or explicit nude photos or videos.
In general, 13% of the students surveyed said that they have received a sext in the last year.
The lead researcher Shari Schneider wants to make sure we know that it's not necessarily a causal relationship between sexting and depression, but that there's definitely a link -
It's a cross-sectional study -- it shows an association but not a causal relationship." However, "it's important to know there's a link between sexting and psychological distress. It's something to be considered if you know of a youth who is involved in sexting."
The study also includes some interesting advice from the Cyberbullying Research Center regarding what kids should do regarding sext messages:
"You should delete it and not tell anybody. If it's doesn't get disseminated and distributed, it's ended."
That message has gotten them some heat, but they stick to it -
"If you tell adults, you're throwing that person under a bus. Adults, it seems, are forced to respond to sexting in extreme ways -- ways that have long-term, irreversible consequences. 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."
What do you think about sexting? Is it a real cause for concern for parents? Or is it just kids being kids in the age of the internet and smartphones? Let us know in the comments.