Teens girls who sext may be more likely to be depressed and anxious

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“Sexting itself may not be problematic,” but having partners who share those sexts with friends or others could be, researcher Justin Garcia said.
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Jet Cat Studio / Shutterstock

  • According to newly presented results of an ongoing study, teen girls who sext are more likely to have anxiety and depression than teens who don’t sext, but the frequency of sexting among those who do doesn’t seem to affect mental health.
  • The researchers also found that teens who sexted more often were more likely to have negative family environments and more experiences with peer pressure than less-frequent sexters.
  • The study co-author said that since more sexting doesn’t necessarily mean more mental health problems, the behavior might be seen as “a normal aspect of sexual development”
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For today’s teen, sexting is more common than ever before, but researchers are still unsure how the practice of sending and receiving explicit images affects teens, especially female teens, psychologically.

New findings presented Friday at the annual meeting of the The Society for the Scientific Study of Sexuality, suggest whether, but not how frequently, teen girls sext is what matters for their mental health.

In the study, which is ongoing, researchers surveyed 821 female students from 14 high schools in Croatia. The students answered survey questions about the number of times in past six months they sent videos, images, or explicit texts. The students were also asked questions about their levels of anxiety, depression, self-esteem, as well as their experiences with peer pressure and their family environments.

The researchers found that high school-aged girls who sexted tended to have higher levels of anxiety and depression than those who didn’t sext at all.

But among those who did sext, doing so more often wasn’t linked to lower levels of psychological well-being. At the same time, teens who sexted frequently were more likely to have negative family environments and more experiences with peer pressure than those who sexted less frequently.

Teens who sexted more often were more likely to have negative family environments and more experiences with peer pressure.

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Teens who sexted more often were more likely to have negative family environments and more experiences with peer pressure.
source
Shutterstock

“Sexting itself may not be problematic,” but having partners who those sexts with their friends or others could be problematic and lead to bullying, study co-author Justin Garcia said, noting that sharing of sexts outside of the person they were intended for has become increasingly common among teens.

The study did have some limitations, including that it couldn’t prove a cause-and-effect relationship between sexting and various outcomes. The researchers also only surveyed Croatian teenage girls, so the results may not reflect those of teens from different countries.

Additionally, Garcia said the fact that sexters tended to have anxiety and depression could suggest they may have started sexting earlier than their high-school years and developed these conditions as a result.

Still, since the study didn’t find a link between sexting frequency and levels of anxiety and depression, Garcia said it could mean the practice “has become a normal aspect of sexual development” for teenage girls.