Adolescent sexting is linked to a host of unhealthy behaviors

  • Mori C & al.
  • JAMA Pediatr
  • 17 Jun 2019

  • International Clinical Digest
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Takeaway

  • Youth who engage in sexting also have higher rates of risky behaviors such as multiple sex partners, no use of contraception, substance use, mental health issues, and delinquency.
  • Children need comprehensive information and guidance about digital citizenship and sexting, say these authors. 

Why this matters

  • About 1 in 4 children sexts, but the risks associated with the practice have not been clarified.
  • This meta-analysis pools findings from 23 studies.

Key results

  • Sexting was associated with higher odds (ORs; 95% CIs) for:
    • Sexual activity: 3.66 (2.71-4.92; 16 studies; n=35,467),
    • Multiple sex partners: 5.37 (2.72-12.67; 5 studies; n=6466),
    • Not using contraception: 2.16 (1.08-4.32; 6 studies; n=7388),
    • Delinquent behavior: 2.50 (1.29-4.86; 3 studies; n=3024),
    • Anxiety/depression: 1.79 (1.41-2.28; 7 studies; n=29,559),
    • Alcohol use: 3.78 (3.11-4.59; 8 studies; n=31,255),
    • Drug use: 3.48 (2.24-5.40; 5 studies; n=8487), and
    • Smoking: 2.66 (1.88-3.76; 4 studies; n=10,356).
  • For all categories, the authors detected no publication bias and significant heterogeneity.
  • Younger age was linked to stronger associations. 

Study design

  • Meta-analysis of 23 studies.
  • Mean age, 14.9 (range, 11.9-16.8) years; 52.1% female.
  • Funding: Alberta Children’s Hospital Foundation, others.

Limitations

  • No causation established.