The number of middle-school students who engage in "sexting" may be higher than you think. What's more, those suggestive text messages and photos could potentially lead to criminal consequences.
A study conducted by the Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics found that more than 1 in 5 middle schoolers reported sending sexually explicit text messages, with some of them having also sent nude or seminude photos, reports Reuters.
The study found that children with emotional and behavioral problems are more at-risk for sexting, and that sexting also correlates with sexual activity.
22 Percent of Middle Schoolers Admit to 'Sexting': Study
The study published in the journal Pediatrics focused on 12- to 14-year-olds and their sexting behaviors. It found that 22 percent had engaged in sexting within the past six months: 17 percent had sent sexual messages via text, while 5 percent took it a step further and sent nude or seminude photos via text message, according to the study.
The researchers concluded that the children who "sext" were more likely to engage in sexual behavior or activity. Kids who are experiencing puberty faster than their peers and those who have difficulty managing their emotions are more likely to sext, the study found.
But the results may not be applicable to all middle schoolers, because researchers only surveyed at-risk seventh graders who were participating in a sexual risk prevention program. Still, regardless of who's doing it, sexting comes with plenty of risks.
Legal Risks of 'Sexting'
One risk of sexting among teenagers and pre-teens is potentially being charged with possession of child porn. This happened in Texas when a 17-year-old boy received nude photos of a 16-year-old girl; the boy then shared the photos with his friends. After it was reported to the school, police arrested the boy for possessing child pornography.
For teens and adults, "sexting" could also cost you your job. In a widely reported incident last year, the FBI issued an internal memo to warn employees against "sexting" on their FBI-issued smartphones. People often forget that their employers can lawfully limit what you're allowed to do on company-owned devices and can fire you violating those terms.
So while it's extremely troublesome that middle school children are sexting, it's important to consider all the possible risks before sending over that racy message.