WTF! Teen Sexting Called a Gateway to the Grave

By David Jenison on March 29, 2018

The gateway drug theory is lame for so many reasons. Among them, correlation-based research can find a gateway for anything, and a series of new studies is proving the point. Last month, PRØHBTD tackled the theory that energy drinks are a gateway to injecting heroin, and this month we bring you the argument that teen sexting is a gateway to tequila shots, drunk sex and even death. 

"Sexting, Risk Behavior, and Mental Health in Adolescents," published by the Journal of School Health, analyzed data from 6,021 high school students in Pennsylvania looking for associations between sexting and substance use, mental health and neighborhood safety. Twenty-nine percent of the students admitted to consensual sexy texting, and the researchers claimed these sexters are more likely to experience depression, attempt suicide, smoke cigarettes, drink alcohol, have sex, have drunk sex and bully others. 

"Sexting, the sharing of sexually suggestive photos, may be a gateway behavior to early sexual activity and increase the likelihood of social ostracism," the researchers concluded. 

Consider what the study seems to suggest: Sexy text messages can be a gateway to depression, suicide and alcoholism. Does this justify a sexting prohibition to protect the children? For those who believe sexting might actually play a role in suicides, the answer could be yes. This is why correlation-based conclusions (e.g., cannabis leads to heroin, sexting leads to suicide) are often dangerous and misguided. 

Sure, it's possible that sexting is the shared risk factor for all these behaviors, but drawing a causal line between sexting and suicide seems like a stretch. Though President Trump is not a teenager in terms of years on this earth, "David Dennision" (no relation to this writer) possibly sent dick pix to adult actress Stormy Daniels, so should Secret Service be checking the president for track marks, alcohol abuse and suicidal thoughts? This study would suggest yes. 

Moreover, if sexting is not the gate door to these behavioral pathways, this theory might actually increase suicide risk by focusing on a symptom instead of the cause. For example, the study said sexting might increase the risk of depression, but maybe undiagnosed depression is the real gateway that increases the risk of sexting, alcohol abuse and suicide. Seriously, you don't have to be a scholar to know that research already connects depression with alcohol abuse and suicide. 

But if you want to stick with the sexting gateway theory, consider the other side of this equation. If you prohibit kids from sexting because you say it'll cause them to have more drunk sex, you're gonna have a lot more kids starting to sext. 


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