Nearly 30 per cent of teenagers send nude pictures of themselves by text or email, according to a new study.
What’s more, according to the research, carried out by the University of Texas, they are “sexting” despite being “bothered” by requests.
The team said the study also revealed that the practice is linked to teens’ sexual behaviour, with those who send revealing images more likely to have had sex than those who didn’t.
Researchers surveying nearly 1,000 students at seven public high schools in southeast Texas found that 28 per cent of adolescents have sent a nude pictures of themselves through electronic means; more than half (57 per cent) have been asked to send a nude picture; and about one-third (31 per cent) have asked for a nude picture to be sent to them.
"It appears that sexting is a modern version of 'show me yours and I'll show you mine,' but the commonness of the behaviour does not condone its occurrence. On the contrary, we found that teens are generally bothered by being asked to send a naked picture," said lead author Jeff Temple, assistant professor in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology.
"In fact, nearly all girls were bothered by having been asked, and among boys, more than half were bothered at least a little."
The researchers also examined the association between sexting and sexual activities and found that male and females who engaged in a variety of sexting behaviours were overwhelmingly more likely to have had sex than their peers who have not experienced sexting.
Moreover, teen girls — but not boys — who engaged in sexting had a higher prevalence of risky sexual behaviours, including multiple partners and using drugs or alcohol before sex.
Temple further noted that these findings, namely the ubiquity of sexting, support recent efforts to soften legal penalties of this behaviour for juveniles.
"If our findings were extrapolated nationally, under most existing laws several million teens would be prosecutable for child pornography or other sexual crimes," he said.
"Doing so not only unjustly punishes youthful indiscretions, but minimises the severity and seriousness of true sexual assault against minors. Resources currently used to criminally punish teen sexting could instead be diverted to prevention and education programs focusing on reducing risky sex behaviours among adolescents."
The results of the study are published in the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine.