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Sexting prevalent among minority teens, study finds

March 01, 2013|By Geoffrey Mohan
  • Black and Latino teen sexting habits are similar to other groups, a study has found.
Black and Latino teen sexting habits are similar to other groups, a study… (Brent Lewin / Bloomberg )

Who 'sexts'? And who cares, besides former U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner’s wife?

It turns out that a fair number of people send the cryptic and racy messages, and behavioral scientists who study issues as varied as sexual mores, shame and suicide are curious.

Depending on your definition of sexting (Words only? Photos?) and what groups you're surveying, 2.5% to 25% of the population sends them and 7% to 34.5% receives them (some, accidentally).

And that's just the folks who admit it. A recent report suggests that almost 40% of young people reported sending such messages, and almost 50% reported receiving them.

The latest addition to cyberpsychology examines the practice among black and Latino youth, a group that in one national study showed a higher tendency to sext than white youth. Researchers at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston looked at data from 1,034 10th-graders from a large, urban school district in southeast Texas.

Their study, published in the journal Cyberpsychology, Behavior and Social Networking, found that more than 20% of students reported sending either a nude or semi-nude picture or video, or a text-only message, and more than 30% reported receiving a sext.

Black males and females had similar sexting habits, and both were more likely than Latino males to join in the sexting trend. Latino females, however, reported the lowest estimates for sexting behaviors.

Although the digital iteration of ars erotica is relatively common, it's hardly harmless: Studies have linked sexting with thoughts of suicide. It also has shown that the practice may promote "inappropriate peer norms" surrounding dating or sexual behavior.

The study had some limitations, the authors acknowledged. Because of the sample chosen, sexting rates between ethnic minorities and non-minorities could not be compared. Nor did researchers poll the senders' intent, such as bullying, a joke or as part of a sexual relationship.

The study was funded by the Centers for Disease Control and federal Department of Health and Human Services.

The study is available online.

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