A new study finds if your middle-schooler is "sexting" he or she is more likely to engage in other sexual behaviors, too, including intercourse.
Researchers at the Bradley/Hasbro Children's Research Center surveyed more than 400 seventh graders ages 12 to 14 years old. They were asked varying questions about their sexual behavior.
"The study found a relationship between either sending either sexually explicit messages or photos and other high-risk behaviors such as, engaging in sexual behaviors including genital touching up to intercourse," explained Dr. Kate Eshleman, who did not take part in the study but is a psychologist at Cleveland Clinic Children's.
Researchers say results show 22% of the kids participated in "sexting" within the past 6 months. And 17% of them sent sexually-explicit texts only, but five percent sent texts and pictures.
Those who sexted were four to seven times more likely to engage in a variety of sexual behaviors; including intercourse, but the risk was even greater among the teens who sent pictures, too.
Researchers say parents and teachers should monitor the texts kids are sending. They say they also need to understand that "sexting" can be an issue as early as middle school.
Eshleman says talking about the "birds and the bees" involves much more nowadays.
"I think the talk does involve more now because there are so many more opportunities," explained Eshleman. "It used to be on the phone in your parents' kitchen or passing notes in school, which was much easier to monitor, so just having parents be aware of all the opportunities for communication and interaction that the children are exposed to and educating the kids about the possible dangers of those."
Complete findings for this study are available online in the journal Pediatrics.