PARENTING
08/11/2015 05:31 pm ET Updated Aug 13, 2015

People Worry More About Kids Sexting Than Smoking, Survey Suggests

Sexting may be the norm for adults, but it could be cause for concern when it comes to kids.
ponsulak via Getty Images

Studies can be fascinating... and totally confusing. So we decided to strip away all of the scientific jargon and break them down for you

The Background
Sexting, or electronically sending sexually explicit messages or images, has become the norm for adults -- it can even be beneficial -- but there are specific worries when it comes to the under-18 set. The practice has been linked to increased sexual activity in teens, not to mention the possibility of harassment and legal trouble. Still, it's pretty common: One in four teens admitted to sexting in a recent study. But how concerned are people about underage sexting? 

The Setup
For the 2015 C.S. Mott Children's Hospital Poll, researchers surveyed 1,982 adults about their top health concerns for children under the age of 18, including childhood obesity, drug and alcohol abuse, sexually transmitted infections, hunger, depression and suicide. The researchers then ranked the worries in order of prevalence, something they've done for the past nine years.

The Findings
Topping the list of health concerns for the second year in a row were childhood obesity, bullying and drug abuse. This year, however, those polled listed Internet safety as the fourth "big problem;" sexting bumped up from the thirteenth slot in 2014 to sixth. In fact, sexting was considered more worrisome than smoking and tobacco use, which was the seventh most common concern adults listed.

The Takeaway
With the press bandying about terms like "teen sexting ring" (yes, really), it's easy to see how such a salacious activity caught people's attention. Unlike their adult counterparts, kids and teens who sext may be more susceptible to peer pressure and bullying, and are not necessarily as aware of the consequences of disseminating explicit messages or photos that can often take on eternal lives thanks to the Internet. It may be worthwhile to keep these concerns in mind as people continue to question sexual education in America. Perhaps learning about all of the dangers (and joys) of sexting can allow teens to make smarter, more informed decisions.

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