Hopeful parents, a new study has bad news for you: According to a study of Los Angeles area youth ages 12 to 18, kids who "sext" are not using it as a replacement for actual sex. In fact, the study shows that those who admit to sexting are significantly more likely to also say they engage in sexual intercourse.
That result may seem obvious, but some researchers hadn't previously been convinced. They wondered if kids might use sexting as a safer but still thrilling activity that would partially replace sex in their lives, allowing them to interact in an explicit fashion with their peers without the risk of pregnancy or sexually transmitted diseases.
That turned out not to be the case. In fact, the researchers found that kids who sext were a whopping seven times more likely to say they also had sex. Importantly, this does not mean that sexting leads to sex like a gateway drug — though that can't be ruled out, either — only that they're associated.
Instead, it simply means that sexting and sex form parts of what the researchers call a "clustering of sexual risk behaviors." Find one, and you're more likely to find the others.