University of Michigan researchers have concluded that the practice of sending sexually explicit photos or messages - aka sexting - is likely just another normal, healthy component of modern dating.
According to Professor Jose Bauermeister, the above-mentioned findings contradict public perception of sexting, which is often portrayed by the media as unsavory, deviant or even criminal behavior.
However, says U-M researcher Debbie Gordon-Messer, most negative stories typically involve sexting among pre-teens and teenagers.
"For younger age groups, legality is an issue," she explained. "They are also in a very different place in their sexual development."
As Bauermeister notes, the U-M study which analyzed the texting behavior of 3,447 men and women ages 18-24, is the first to connect the common practice with a behavioral outcome.
Indeed, most sexting studies tend to focus on demographic; in other words, who is doing the sexting, not how sexting impacts the health of the participants.
Unsurprisingly, U-M researchers found that nearly half of the study respondents participated in sexting. Most people who confirmed receiving "sexts" also reported sending them, which suggests sexting is often reciprocal and likely happens between romantic partners.
The researchers asked study participants about the number of sexual partners with whom they have had unprotected sex. The participants who "sexted" did not report riskier sexual behavior than those who didn't. Nor did they report more depression, anxiety or low self-esteem.
In the larger picture, the sexting research is a very important piece of understanding how technology impacts sexuality and health, Bauermeister said.
"We have to keep paying attention to how technology influences our lives, including our sexuality and our sexual behavior," he added.