Teens who send or receive sexts more likely to be sexually active

Granite Elementary School sixth-grade students hold up their cellphones in Sandy, Utah, in 2008. (AP Photo/Deseret News, Kristin Murphy)
(Kristin Murphy / Associated Press)

Young teenagers who send or receive “sexts” -- sexually explicit photos or text messages -- are more likely to report having sex, according to a new USC study.

Middle school students who receive sexts are six times more likely to report having sex, and young teens sending sexts were four times as likely to have sex, according to the researchers. They noted that past data demonstrates a connection between sexually active young teens and risky sexual behavior including teenage pregnancy and higher potential for sexually transmitted diseases.

“These findings call attention to the need to train health educators, pediatricians and parents on how best to communicate with young adolescents about sexting in relation to sexual behavior,” said USC professor and lead author Eric Rice. “The sexting conversation should occur as soon as the child acquires a cellphone.”

Researchers also found that young teens sending more than 100 text messages a day were more likely to be sexually active. Students who identify as LGBTQ were nine times as likely to have sent a sext.


Overall, 20% of students reported receiving a sext, and 5% reported sending sexts.

The study sampled more than 1,300 middle school students in the Los Angeles area, with the average age of respondents at 12.3 years old. Because students self-reported the survey, researchers said it may be limited by different social biases and the diverse demographics of the area’s middle school students.