THURSDAY, Oct. 16, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- A large number of American teens continue to send and receive sexual images on their cellphones -- a practice dubbed sexting, according to a new study.
Researchers surveyed more than 1,100 undergraduate college students about their experiences with sexting in high school. Nearly 20 percent said they had sent a nude photo of themselves to another person via cellphone, and 38 percent had received such a photo, according to the survey.
Of those who received a sext message, nearly one in five forwarded the photo to another person, according to the University of Utah study published recently in the journal Computers in Human Behavior.
"The results are nearly identical to the findings from our 2013 study of high school students," study author Don Strassberg, a professor of psychology at the University of Utah, said in a university news release. "We believe the consistency reflects a valid estimate of the prevalence of teen sexting -- and the numbers are considerable."
The findings show that sexting is occurring among a large number of high school students across the country, in spite of warnings about the dangers.
"Nothing has changed in that realm -- except that the technology makes it easy and, thus, more vulnerable to misuse," Strassberg said.
"You lose control of the image the moment you push 'send.' From there the risks, which can be especially grave for teens, range from embarrassment and humiliation to unwanted sexual advances to cyberbullying and blackmail and, though rare, possibly to felony charges for pornography trafficking because they are minors," he explained.
Both women and men sext, but there are significant differences between them. Equal numbers of women and men had sent a sext, but many more men (47 percent) than women (32 percent) had received a sext.
This may be because men are much more likely than women to forward a sext -- 24 versus 13 percent respectively, the researchers said.
Boyfriends or girlfriends were the recipients of 83 percent of sexts sent by women and 55 percent of those sent by men. People other than a boyfriend or girlfriend were the recipients of 31 percent of sexts sent by men and 15 percent of those sent by women, the study found.
Men also sexted someone they wanted to date "or hook up with" (12 percent) or an acquaintance they just met (2.4 percent), while women did neither, according to the study.
The American Academy of Pediatrics explains how to talk to children about sexting.
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