It should have been expected in today’s world but.....

The country’s oldest teenagers were born in 2000, and the youngest came along six years later.

One thing they have in common? Cellphones, especially the smart ones, have been at their disposal for pretty much all of their conscious lives. And according to the University of Texas Medical Branch, at least 25 percent of teens “have received sexually explicit videos, images or messages on their mobile phone.”


But parents shouldn’t panic: Consensual sexting is a part of a person exploring his or her burgeoning sexuality and is “a normal and healthy part of adolescence,” researchers say.

In a recent article published in the journal Lancet Child and Adolescent Health, the four authors — including a UTMB professor, a pediatric doctor, a private attorney and a psychologist — said that “the ubiquity of the smart-phone in adolescent circles has both good and bad consequences.” But, they added, consensual sexting within a committed relationship is an important distinction, and other studies have found that unwanted sexual messages can be associated with mental health issues, according to a news release.

“Our focus shouldn’t be to shame or criminalize teen sexting behavior but rather to focus on healthy relationship practices, education on digital citizenship and potential online risks,” said Jeff Temple, a UTMB professor in behavioral health and one of the report’s co-authors.

A 2018 study by the Journal of the American Medical Association showed that the average sexting age is 15, but the probability of sexting increases as the teen gets older.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, parents should emphasize that anything sent over the internet or by cellphone “can be shared with the entire world,” so the minor must exercise good judgment in what he or she sends and forwards to another person.

The JAMA study found that 12 percent of people reported “they had forwarded a sext without consent and 8.5 percent said that a sext of theirs had been forwarded without their consent.”

Also, it’s important to note that sending sexually explicit photos or videos of minors is illegal in most places. Atext could get a student suspended from school, depending on who sees what.

The average age that children get their first smartphone is 10, so it’s likely that sexting will become more prevalent in tweens and older children, Temple said. More studies are needed of sexting among 10- and 11-year-olds.