SALT LAKE CITY -- A University of Utah study found that sexting among teens in the Mountain West is more common than previously thought.
University psychology professor Dr. Don Strassberg says his study is unique in that it reveals information specifically about teens and their frequency of sexting -- the act of sending and sharing sexually explicit photos via cell phone.
"The bottom line is there are a lot of kids engaging in this behavior," said Strassberg.
Strassberg says that 600 students between 14 and 18 years old at a private high school in the southwest U.S. were surveyed. The study shows that 20 percent of the high school teens surveyed had previously sent sexually explicit images of themselves while 40 percent said they received sexting images.
"Half the boys and a third of the girls said they received such a picture," said Strassberg.
The survey says 25 percent admitted to forwarding those images so others can view them. Strassbers says that most had only a vague idea there are criminal consequences.
"Countrywide kids are being put on sex offender registries along with child molesters and rapists because they engaged in this behavior," said Strassberg.
The results were published online in the Archives of Sexual Behavior, a national peer publication, typically reviewed by other sexual behavior researchers. But Strassberg says parents, children and educators should be aware and talk about sexting and the consequences.
"If parents won't, let schools have a shot at it," says Strassberg. "Some schools are doing this nationally. They have assemblies specifically to talk to the kids; really inform them about what's at risk here. They have PTA meetings about it; inform families about it. If the parents are better informed maybe kids will be informed as well," said Strassberg.