Joseph Daddario

Photo by Emily Haddad

“Sexting” is again linked to risky sex among teens, article says that “What they’re doing in their offline lives is what they’re doing in their online lives.” “One out of every seven Los Angeles high schoolers with a cell phone has sent a sexually-explicit text message or photo, according to results of a 2011 survey that also found “sexters” more likely to engage in risky sexual behaviors.”

Sexting is back in the spotlight with a new study that shows 2.5% of students with a cell phone have sent sexually explicit texts or photos. These students are also seven times more likely to engage in risky sexual behaviors. The article focuses on the dangers of sexting; having the photos appear online but fails to explain what the risky behaviors are and the repercussions. This raises questions about just what researchers consider “risky” behavior and if the general population actually considers these same behaviors risky. The study was based on 1,560 students, an outrageously small sample of the 16.4 million students in the United States. The Reuters article also states that a majority of the respondents were Latino, when in fact the majority of the students were white (73%) and the Latino respondents were only 10%. The fact that the study was conducted on only 1,560 students and then applied to the general student population is ludicrous. It’s impossible to base such a broad hypothesis of sexting leading to sexually risky behavior based on such a small sample. It’s like surveying 100 people and then saying the entire state of Idaho feels the same way.

Another study released by Harvard’s Berkman Center for International Studies found that sexting and online sexual activity was not dangerous. This year-long study was done by a large group of experts who finally concluded that “The risks minors face online are in most cases not significantly different from those they face offline, and as they get older, minors themselves contribute to some of the problems.” This isn’t the only study that turns the tables on sexting though. Eric Rice, an assistant professor at the University of Southern California’s School of Social Work in Los Angeles, explains that “The same teens who are engaging in digital sex risk-taking through sexting are also the same teens that are engaging in sex risk with their bodies in terms of being sexually active and not using condoms.” Basically, the young people that engaged in sexual or social troubles online are the ones that are already at risk in the real world, and one does not necessarily lead to the other.

The first study seems like a scare tactic designed to frighten students into not having sex, easing the burden of the hard questions about taking care of real-life issues. This is just making kids worry and fear sex, hindering the sex dialogue. While I think sending a nude picture is one of the stupidest things to do, it’s nigh impossible to stop or regulate. Educating students about the risks of sexting, such as pictures being put on the internet where they will never go away, or embarrassing pictures being shown to people that the sender doesn’t want to see or legal repercussions for sending pictures of underage kids, to name a few, is the best method to hinder the sexting movement.