Parents, fasten your seat belts.  This ride is about to get bumpy.

Much like our kids -- technology, the internet, and social media are growing and changing in the blink of an eye.  Just when you think you have one stage figured out, a whole new stage develops.  And when it comes to our kids using technology, it can be hard to keep up with what is safe, what is appropriate, and what is going on.

Take texting.  It's a seemingly innocuous activity conducted by millions of Americans of all ages each day.  As cell phones and smart phones become more ubiquitous, kids are getting in to the texting game at younger and younger ages such that many kids have their own cell phones in elementary school and the vast majority have phones by middle school.  Such was not the case even five years ago.  But this greater access to technology means that by middle school, most kids are well versed in the language and appeal of texting.  

That in and of itself is not disturbing. What is disturbing is learning that at least one study has found a link between texting - and sexting - and sex.  Even among middle schoolers.

The research, published in the most recent issue of Pediatrics, evaluated the behavior of 1285 middle school students in the Los Angeles area.  Researchers found that of the students who had text-capable phones, a whopping 20 percent had reported receiving a sext message.  (Maybe this just seems whopping to me as the mother of a middle schooler, but 20 percent---yikes!)  Five percent of these students had reported sending a sext message.  

Not surprisingly, the kids who did the most texting - upwards of 100 texts per day - were also the most likely to both send and receive sext messages.  Students who sent and received sexts were more likely to report engaging in sexual activity.  Excessive texting and receiving sexts were also both associated with unprotected sex.  

Because of these links, the authors of the study are urging middle schools around the country to include in information about texting - and sexting - in their sex education curricula.  And for us parents, it's serves a good reminder to talk with kids early and often about the appropriate use of today's ever growing and changing technology.

Related posts on MNN:

Sexting, sex, and middle school
New research links tween texting use with their likelihood to engage in sexting as well as sexual activity.