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Health & Parenting

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Teen 'Sexting' More Common Than Thought

More Than 1 in 4 Teens Have Sent Nude Pictures, Study Finds

Teen Sexting Study Details continued...

Although Temple found no gender differences between the percentage who had sent a sext, the boys were more likely than the girls to ask for one. "Almost 70% of the girls had been asked," he says.

Which came first, the sexting or the sex?

"We can't answer that with this study," Temple says. "We are doing [new] studies hoping to get that sequence of events."

Previous studies on teens have found sexting rates ranging from 1% to 31%, according to Temple. However, much of that research is based on online surveys or studies with problems such as low response rates, he says.

Teen Sexting: Perspective

The new research adds some solid information about how common teen sexting is, says Megan A. Moreno, MD, MPH, MSEd, an assistant professor of pediatrics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

She wrote an editorial to accompany the study.

"I think sexting is still relatively new and there is a lot we don't know about it," she tells WebMD.

For pediatricians, the new research suggests that traditional questions about the use of media may need updating, she says.

Doctors often ask if there is a TV in the child's bedroom and if media are used for more than two hours a day, she says.

"Those questions are outdated," she says. "I think we [as doctors] need to replace and expand what we ask about."

Asking about social media use may help doctors step into conversations about sexual behavior with their teen patients, she says.

Moreno tells parents that sexting, for teens, may be part of their sexual experimentation. "This study helps to say, 'It does mean something -- your child may be more at risk for early sexual behaviors.'"

"Adolescents use social media to explore who they are or who they want to be," she says.

For parents, the new research ''is an in-your-face opportunity to either start or continue that discussion about your family's values and your thinking about sexual decision making."

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