Once thought to be the province of randy teenagers, exchanging sexually explicit messages over mobile devices, a practice known as "sexting," may be far more widespread than assumed.
In a recent survey, 88 percent of adults said that they have sexted with someone -- 82 percent of them in the past year.
Among adults, "sexting among was definitely more prevalent in our sample than I expected it to be," admitted study co-author Emily Stasko, a Drexel University master of public health researcher who specializes in adolescent sexual health.
Technology has often found a way to sneak into people's intimate relations. Stasko's work points to the need for greater understanding in how sexting affects our most intimate relations.
Stasko, along with Drexel associate professor of psychology Pamela Geller, surveyed 870 U.S. adults, ranging in age from 18 to 82. Survey respondents were evenly divided by sex. About 26 percent of those surveyed were single, while the remaining participants were in committed relationships.
Of the people who have sent or received sexually implicit text messages, 75 percent of done so with a committed partner, while 43 percent exchanged mash notes as part of a casual relationship.
There was no word on whether iPhone users or Android users were friskier texters.
Stasko admitted the population sample could be skewed to those who are technically savvy: The survey was administered online.
Nonetheless, the results do seem to indicate "sexting does play a role in adult relations," Stasko said.
Researchers don't see these titillating exchanges as necessarily a negative thing.
The survey found a positive correlation between sexting and overall greater sexual satisfaction, and was a particularly strong connection for those in relationships.
Many people who sexted reported their behavior as fun and carefree. The key to happy sexting is "context and intent," she said, meaning that those who reported higher levels of relationship satisfaction also reported a more positive experience with sexting overall.
Sexting could foster a more open communication between two people, or add a bit of spice to a long-standing relationship.
Stasko will present the work Saturday at the American Psychological Association's 123rd Annual Convention, in Toronto.