Every parent knows that teen sexting is potentially really, really bad news. Sexting can spread around the school in minutes and humiliate the subject, or worse they can find their way online and become the common property of every pedophile with a broadband connection. But a recent research study also suggests that kids involved in sexting are twice as likely to experience psychological distress and even attempt suicide.
The Education Development Center in Newton, Massachusetts analyzed the results from a group of 23,000 high school students in the Boston area who were surveyed in 2010. The schools were situated in predominately upper-middle class white suburbs, so further research needs to be done on different demographics of teens.
Of the sampling, 10% reported sending a sext in the past year; 5% reported receiving one from someone else. Those who had sent or received sexual pictures were more likely to have thought about or have tried to kill themselves, and were twice as likely to exhibit signs of depression and psychological distress. Girls in particular were more likely to perform self-harming behaviors such as self-mutilation or eating disorders. The study overwhelmingly showed that there was more of an emotional impact on girls than boys.
Of course the study can't prove which came first: the sexting or the depression. Perhaps depressed teens are somehow more drawn to sexting as a way to reach out or gain approval from others; perhaps something about sexting makes existing teen depression worse. Or it may be that sexting really can lead to depressive feelings.
It's up to parents to interpret the results of this study, but one thing is for sure: get the message across for your teens to keep sexy pictures of themselves to themselves. Sexting is just bad news.
-Article Contributed by Jenny Evans