It's Time To Add 'Adolescent Sexting Depression' To The DSM

More bad news on the kids-today front: kids who are sexting are more likely to be depressed. The only (sort of) silver lining is that kids in general may be recognizing that sending nude pics to each other is a bad idea.

ABC reports on a study of teens from the Boston suburbs, which found that teens who had sexted were twice as likely to report depressive symptoms, and also more likely to have attempted suicide, than those who had not. It's not clear whether sexting leads to psychiatric problems or vice versa, but many experts note that the practice can give rise to social stigma. Dr. Jill Murray explains to ABC, "When it gets forwarded to multiple boys at multiple schools and also other girls … a girl starts getting called names and her reputation is ruined." She adds, "I don't know any 16 year old boy who's going to keep a naked picture of a girl to himself." But it's not just boys being dicks. Says Murray,

I'm finding this very much in high schools and it's a very disturbing trend where girls choose a boy who is sexually naïve and she asks for pictures of him. He's sort of flattered and he feels like a big guy and then she sends them around.

It's not surprising that sexting might lead to depression if it's just a way for everyone to embarrass you and treat you like shit. However, there's also an alternate explanation. Dr. Michael Rich, a "renowned expert on the psychosocial effects of technology" (translation: sextpert), tells ABC that sexting is actually on the decline, "quite possibly because kids are cluing in more to what the repercussions are." So maybe the kids who are still sexting are those who are drawn to risky behavior, which might be correlated with depression or suicidal thoughts. Says Rich, "If I, as a pediatrician, saw a kid who was sexting I would be more attuned to are you self harming, are you at risk for suicide."

This explanation is a hopeful one for kids in general — may it be true that they're learning not to trust their peers with naked pictures. However, it's kind of sad for kids who are struggling with depression or other issues — if they're more likely to sext, they're more likely to be shamed, which may make them feel even worse. Murray says most sexting goes on late at night, so the solution is to keep kids' cell phones locked in a parent's bedroom while the kids are sleeping. Maybe to be safe, the phones should just stay in there til the kids turn 30. On second thought, that may not be long enough.

Teen Sexting Linked To Psychological Distress [ABC]

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