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Why Newest Teen Sexting Study May Be the Most Accurate

KUT News

Twenty-eight percent of high school students have sent naked pictures of themselves through email or text, according to a study led by the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston.

The researchers also found that teens who sexted were more likely to have had sex than those who did not send out nude photos of themselves.

The results of the UTMB study are much higher than rates found in previous studies. A study published in the journal “Pediatrics” last year found that one percent of young people sexted sexually explicit photos, whereas one by the Pew Research Center in 2009 found a rate closer to four percent.

“The variance in findings has a lot to do with methodology,” says Jeff Temple, lead researcher of the UTMB study. He’s an assistant professor in the UTMB Department of Obstetrics & Gynecology.

Temple and his team surveyed 948 students at seven Houston-area high schools – a diverse group with similar percentages of African-American, white and Hispanic students in the sample. Temple says this method differed from the other studies and probably led to more honest results.

“The [Pediatrics] study used random-digit dialing to survey teens, which relies on people who have home phones rather than cell phones. That’ll give you a more conservative, older and less ethnically diverse sample, which isn’t representative,” says Temple.

The study didn’t answer questions about why teens sext or whether or not sexting was something that occurred before or after intercourse. Temple says his team will investigate those questions in their next study. 

Wells has been a part of KUT News since 2012, when he was hired as the station's first online reporter. He's currently the social media host and producer for Texas Standard, KUT's flagship news program. In between those gigs, he served as online editor for KUT, covering news in Austin, Central Texas and beyond.
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