Parental connection, not restriction, discourages teen sexting

January 24, 2014 by Jared Wadley, University of Michigan

(Medical Xpress)—Parents who wish to shield their children from exchanging sexually explicit images and texts on cell phones should make sure they, themselves, stay connected to their kids through mobile communication, says a University of Michigan researcher.

Rather than imposing heavy-handed supervision of use, parents and other family members can help curb children's exposure to "" by incorporating themselves into the flows of a teen's texting and talking. Also, parents may be better off if they pay for their kids' service, rather than having children pay for their own.

"The findings suggest that explicit restriction is not effective," said Scott Campbell, the study's lead author who is an associate professor of communication studies and the U-M Pohs Professor of Telecommunications.

Campbell and colleague Yong Jin Park, an associate professor at Howard University, found that teen sexting was positively predicted by connectedness to peers through .

The researchers interpret the opposing roles of mobile phone use with peers and parents through the lens of social emancipation—a framework for understanding how develop a sense of self as they experience new freedoms and responsibilities, many of which are now mediated through mobile communication.

These new experiences include accruing and managing personal finances, developing a sense of style and integrity, navigating relationships, and dealing with issues of sex and sexuality.

"Teens are testing the boundaries of what is acceptable," said Campbell, whose research seeks to explain mobile communication behaviors and consequences in key areas of social life.

Teen sexting seems not only to be an expression of sexuality, but also the development of social identity. As teens become more connected to their peers and less connected to family through the technology, the balance is tipped toward peer influence, he said.

The study focused on 552 teens, ages of 12-17, who outlined their cell phone- and text-related behaviors with peers and . Some additional highlights include:

Older teens are more likely to send and receive sexts than younger teens. However, if the younger teens pay for their own service, they are more likely to receive a sext.

White teens are less likely to receive a sext than nonwhite teens.

Girls who do not use a as a family resource are notably more likely to receive a sext than girls who frequently do.

In addition, the frequency of text messaging is associated with the likelihood of receiving, but not sending, a sext. Heavy texting only increases exposure to these images, Campbell said.

"It is plausible that intensive texting leads to contact with a broader array of characters, making it more likely that the user will encounter a member of the small subset of teens who distribute these types of messages, thereby increasing their chance of receiving a sext unintentionally," he said.

"On the other hand, it may be that heavy texters are more likely to actively solicit these images from others because they have become accustomed to this channel as a safe venue for intimate exchanges."

Explore further: Teens who 'Sext' don't dwell on consequences

Related Stories

Teens who 'Sext' don't dwell on consequences

December 19, 2013
(HealthDay)—"Sexting"—sending out sexually explicit text messages or photos by cellphone—is fairly common among teens, a new Belgian study finds. And peer pressure, the search for romance and trust that the recipient ...

20 percent of seventh graders have 'sexted'

January 6, 2014
(HealthDay)—More than 20 percent of at-risk seventh graders have "sexted" and those middle schoolers were much more likely to also have engaged in some type of sexual behavior, a new study finds.

Teen sexting, the gender gap

March 14, 2013
A survey of US adolescents reveals a gender gap in attitudes towards sexting and perceived harm.

'Sexting' may go hand-in-hand with unprotected sex among teens

September 17, 2012
(HealthDay)—Teens who "sext" sexually explicit texts or images are probably taking other sexual risks as well, with new research indicating these adolescents are seven times more likely to be sexually active and significantly ...

Recommended for you

Baby brains help infants figure it out before they try it out

January 17, 2018
Babies often amaze their parents when they seemingly learn new skills overnight—how to walk, for example. But their brains were probably prepping for those tasks long before their first steps occurred, according to researchers.

NeuroNext biomarker study explores natural history of infantile-onset SMA

January 9, 2018
Research led by The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center to define the natural history of infantile-onset spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) has been "critical" to accelerate the development of effective therapies and hasten ...

No link between childhood lead levels, later criminality

December 27, 2017
(HealthDay)— Exposure to higher levels of lead during early childhood can affect neurological development—but does that mean affected kids are doomed to delinquency?

Early puberty in girls may take mental health toll

December 26, 2017
(HealthDay)—A girl who gets her first menstrual period early in life—possibly as young as 7—has a greater risk for developing depression and antisocial behaviors that last at least into her 20s, a new study suggests.

Technology not taking over children's lives despite screen-time increase

December 21, 2017
With children spending increasing amounts of time on screen-based devices, there is a common perception that technology is taking over their lives, to the detriment and exclusion of other activities. However, new Oxford University ...

Higher blood sugar in early pregnancy raises baby's heart-defect risk

December 15, 2017
Higher blood sugar early in pregnancy raises the baby's risk of a congenital heart defect, even among mothers who do not have diabetes, according to a study led by researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine.


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.