Researchers of a new study published in the journal JAMA Pediatrics on Monday, Feb. 26, revealed a growing number of young people below 18 years old who engage in sexting.
Sexting involves sharing one's images and videos online or through electronic devices such as smartphones. It does not include sending a sexual image from a pornography website.
Study researcher Sheri Madigan, from the University of Calgary in Canada, and colleagues looked at data from 39 sexting studies conducted from January 1990 to June 2016, which involved more than 110,300 participants below 18 years old.
They found that about one in seven teens have sent sexts and one in four have received them. Boys and girls were also equally likely to sext.
About 12 to 13 percent of the kids reported forwarding on a sext such as a sexually explicit image or video they received to another without obtaining consent of the sender.
Madigan said that teens may assume safety or security in the apps they use when in fact there is none. She said that kids do not have a clear understanding of cause and effect.
For instance, teens do not recognize that once they send a picture, they can't get this back and it is now up to the recipient to decide how he or she is going to treat the picture.
"That is why this concept of digital safety and security is so important: because we know that this is happening. We know that sexts are being forwarded without consent, so if parents are having conversations with their teens about sexting, they can talk about those potential risks," Madigan said.
Link To Smartphone Use
Madigan and colleagues said that sexting between teens increased amid widespread use of smartphone and computers with camera. The researchers said that the low prevalence of sexting in many early studies is due to the fact that mobile devices and computers were not as common before than today.
"With smartphone ownership becoming near ubiquitous in recent years, our finding that the prevalence of youth sexting was higher in more recent studies was not surprising," the researchers wrote in their study.
"The finding that rates of sexting were also higher via mobile devices relative to computers was expected because mobile phones are a portable, convenient technology that allows for immediate, rapid, and seemingly private communication. "
On average, children today get their first cellphone at about 10 years old.