This Many Middle Schoolers Already Sext

by Krystin Arneson

Oh seventh-graders, what are we going to do with you? A new study published in Pediatrics found that more than 20 percent of at-risk seventh-graders are using their phones to sext, sending their naughty thoughts to their spring fling dates and Spanish class parejas. The study also found that students who sext are more likely to have engaged in sexual behavior in real life. (Talk about getting over the whole "talking to your crush" thing early.) But as usual in these shocker-study stories, the media's doing a little misrepresentation of the facts.

Before we get into that, here are the facts from the study: about 17 percent of seventh-graders sext with old-fashioned words, while five percent believe a picture is worth at least 160 characters. Seventh-grade sexters are also three times as likely to have gotten to third base (oral sex, to you losers out there) and twice as likely to have hit a home run (sex-sex).

Cue researchers and parents freaking out. "Phone behaviors, even flirtatious messages, may be an indicator of risk," the study's authors wrote in their report.

What with the raging hormones and 68 percent of seventh-graders owning their own phone, you'd think this was inevitable. But, clearly, not all seventh-graders are getting sexty:

In the study, 410 seventh graders from five urban public middle schools in Rhode Island completed surveys between 2009 and 2012. All of the children had been identified by school counselors, nurses or administrators as having behavioral or emotional difficulties.

Note the study is of seventh-graders with "behavioral or emotional difficulties" — not a sweeping survey of kids these days in general. Most headlines are leaving out the "at-risk" caveat because it's (pardon me) sexier to make the statement that a full fifth of middle-schoolers are sending sexy messages. But it's also not true. Really not true.

Even though middle-schoolers are having sex, it's still a relatively low percentage. Fewer kids are having sex before the age of 13. Meanwhile, teen pregnancy rates continue to fall. So calm down, people. Or, if you must, blame Dylan Sprouse.