THURSDAY, July 21, 2011 (HealthDay News) -- A survey of college students suggests that "sexting" is rampant: More than half said they have received sexual images on their phones, and almost eight in 10 said they've gotten suggestive text messages.
Two-thirds of the students surveyed said they'd sent suggestive text messages. Of those, 10 percent passed them on without consent of the person who first sent them.
"It is important to help everyone, especially students, understand the importance of setting boundaries around their use of technology," research co-leader Tiffani S. Kisler, an assistant professor at the University of Rhode Island, said in a news release from the university.
Researchers surveyed 204 college students last spring, before the governor of Rhode Island signed a bill banning sexting by minors.
"It is a delicate situation with the new laws that are in place," Kisler said. "While it is important to protect minors and help them recognize the short- and long-term implications of sending sexually explicit images, opening them up to something as serious as potential child pornography charges may not be the most effective course of action."
Kisler said students may not realize where their messages will go. "At the young age of most college students, people are filtering through relationships at a faster rate," Kisler said. "People want to feel a sense of belonging, so they are sharing more of themselves with people they are still getting to know. Once they click that 'send' button, they don't know where else a message will wind up."
In another survey of 236 college students, almost half said they'd been awakened by text messages. The researchers said repeated sleep interruption could have significant emotional and physical effects. The survey also found that more than nine in 10 students had reported texting while behind the wheel. That's also illegal in Rhode Island.
The U.S. National Library of Medicine has details on teen sexual health.