According to the research, teens who are involved in consensual sexting with their "committed partnership might be indicative of healthy exploration."
The presence of the words "teens" and "sexting" in a headline is sure to make all the parents with adult teenagers, spiral out of control. However, according to experts, it is seen as a rather normal development that often occurs in older teens, reports USA Today.
I know this comes as a surprise to you, but the researchers at the University of Texas Medical Branch have found this exchange of sexually explicit pictures and videos to be a normal part of their growing years.
After making a thorough analysis of 40 existing studies, spanning 110,000 teens, the researchers found consensual sexting "in a committed partnership might be indicative of healthy exploration." A new research paper containing this conclusion was published last week in Lancet Child Adolescent Health.
The lead researcher of this study and the director of behavioral health and research at the University of Texas Medical Branch, Jeff R. Temple, advised parents to take a step back and breathe if they happened to chance upon their kids' messages which contain sexts.
Speaking to USA Today regarding this matter, Temple said, "First, if you're a parent and you find a sext on your kid's phone, don't freak out." He also noted, "It doesn't mean your kid is bad or a deviant. He further added how "adolescents’ exploration of their sexual identity is not only normal, but a developmental and biological imperative" that is facilitated by consensual sexting between two older teens. This behavior, as per Temple, should not be shammed but should rather be seen as "healthy relating."
The study has discovered that 15% and 27% of teens aged 12 to 17 respectively are involved in sending and receiving sexts. Although Temple suggests exploring the necessity of sexual identity, one cannot overlook the risks involved in this revealing process.
Now, these findings are specifically based on the assumption that these sexually explicit texts exchanged between these kids are consensual and not a result of pressurization. In the event of the latter, where children have been receiving unwanted sexts have been associated with an increasing amount of depression, anxiety, and stress.
On the other hand, the ones who wanted these sexts did not show any sign of psychological distress, according to a study published in 2019. Although another 2018 study found teens who sext with their partner in a committed relationship are not associated with any substance abuse, casual sexing is a cause of concern.
Researchers have discovered how these teens involve themselves in several risky behaviors. They also provided some pointers which parents need to concern themselves with.
The first thing that parents need to be mindful of is the fact that teens who sext are three to five times more likely to be sexually involved. They are also five times more likely to have multiple sexual partners and unfortunately, only half of them are likely to use contraception.
Sexting may scientifically be a healthy part of their development who are in a committed relationship. Of course, these "commitments" seldom last long but the explicit pictures, sexts, and video remain with the other person forever. They can obviously be saved and shared against the wishes of your children and when that happens, it is surely a cause for concern.
"There are risks and we do still need to think of it as a public health concern," said Temple. "I have a 16-year-old daughter, and I don’t want her sexting. There’s a good chance that it will happen. So we need to see (sexting) as more of a normal manifestation of normal teenage development and we still need to talk about it with our kids the way we talk about sex with them."
Stressing on the importance of having a "sex talk" with their kids, Temple urges parents to be open-minded with their kids while talking about such a subject. Indulging in a conversation like this could allow teens to be more comfortable approaching their parents about questions relating to this subject.
"We want really firm and non-movable rules and hand-holding, but a lot of parents don't understand how communication has moved to the digital platform," said Doreen Dodgen-Magee, an author and psychologist. "Sexting is incredibly common. And if parents freak out, they may lose out on their child's trust and opportunities for conversation," she added.
"Let’s become better listeners and open to complexities of what’s going on," she said. "And if we don’t like it and if we don’t believe in it, that doesn’t matter as much. We have to be willing to get down in the muck with them."