Almost a quarter of troubled seventh-graders send sexually suggestive texts or photos, with those sending explicit pictures especially likely to engage in sexual behavior, according to a study published Monday in the journal Pediatrics.
"Certainly, if (parents) see photos, then that's an extra warning sign that there might be a real need to have a conversation and to monitor," Dr. Christopher Houck, lead author of the study and a psychologist at Rhode Island Hospital, told TODAY Moms.
"Previous studies have suggested that a very small percentage of early adolescents were sexting, but we don't really believe that."
Houck said the only other research to include this age group relied on phone interviews with kids while their parents were present, likely affecting the results.
This study focused on adolescents identified by school counselors as having "symptoms of behavioral or emotional difficulties." The eligible seventh-graders, who were 12 to 14 years old and enrolled in public middle schools in Rhode Island, were then given questionnaires to fill out about their sexting behavior, as well as their sexual experience.
Image: Tween using a cell phone, via Shutterstock