Survey: Most college kids sext, some then forward

Research out of the University of Rhode Island finds that four out of five college kids surveyed say they sext, and almost one in five of all students surveyed admit to forwarding explicit messages they've received.

Elizabeth Armstrong Moore
Elizabeth Armstrong Moore is based in Portland, Oregon, and has written for Wired, The Christian Science Monitor, and public radio. Her semi-obscure hobbies include climbing, billiards, board games that take up a lot of space, and piano.
Elizabeth Armstrong Moore
2 min read

Anthony Weiner, your parents may have gotten your name right, but man, you were born a generation too soon.

Because while the pundits and researchers expound on the many reasons sexting is bad for us as individuals and a society, and while state legislators draft bills to expel students who sext from school, or to define sexting between minors as child pornography, it seems that these days, the student who sexts is far more common than the student who doesn't.

The sirens they are a sexting. Mike Licht, NotionsCapital.com/Flickr

So say researchers at the University of Rhode Island, who are running three studies that examine the impact of technology on relationships as well as on physical and mental health in college students.

In one survey of 204 college students this past spring, assistant professors Sue Adams and Tiffani Kisler found that 78 percent of the students say they have received sexually explicit texts, 67 percent have sent them, 56 percent have received them as images, and 17 percent were compelled to forward their received sexts onto other presumably interested parties.

Setting aside for a moment the fact that this survey included only a couple hundred participants and relied entirely on self-reporting, the new laws being put into place that cast what could be a majority of young cell phone toting humans as "status offenders" presents what Kisler calls a "delicate situation."

"While it is important to protect minors and help them recognize the short- and long-term implications of sending sexually explicit images, opening them up to something as serious as potential child pornography charges may not be the most effective course of action," she says in a news release.

She is referring, of course, to the bill Rhode Island Governor Lincoln Chafee signed this month outlawing sexting by minors.

But Kisler's research goes well beyond the realms of explicit texting. Kisler has also found that out of 236 college juniors and seniors, 47 percent reported that they were awakened by incoming texts, and 40 percent of the students reported actually answering phone calls during sleep. (Ah, the ol' sleep talking.)

Kisler and Adams indicate that it is now more important than ever to educate children on the perils of both hyper texting and sexting. But it seems the latest education won't be on how to get a good night's sleep or avoid being pressured into doing (or showing) anything you don't want to.

It will instead be on how to avoid becoming a registered sex offender.