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In January, I wrote about a study in which two-thirds of teenage girls in an online forum reported being asked to send sexually explicit messages or images via text. That study was based on a small sample of about young women, so while it sheds some light on the pressure to sext that teenage girls may face, it does not give us a good sense of how many teens are actually sexting. They found that the prevalence of sexting among teens is rising, with teens who were surveyed in more recent studies more likely to report sexting than those in earlier studies. And the majority of teens are sexting on a smartphone rather than on a computer. Sexting behavior also increases with age, with older teens more likely to have sexted than younger ones, since older teens are more likely to have a smartphone and to be dating. Relationships among tweens are often transient, which may make them more vulnerable to having sexts forwarded without consent. That does not mean that there are not key differences in how girls and boys respond to sexting, as Elizabeth Englander and Megan McCoy point out in a companion piece to the study, noting:. For example, females may be more likely to report feeling pressure to sext, and they may also show more risk factors associated with sexting, such as a higher number of sexual partners compared with those who do not sext. Finally, the study examined the frequency of nonconsensual sexting among teens, which occurs when one person forwards a sext without permission and can lead to harassment, cyberbullying, and even blackmail. Because the average age for first smartphone use is getting younger, the authors recommend that parents, educators, and pediatricians begin having conversations about sexting as early as middle school.
What is sexting?
Usually defined as sharing a sexual photo of oneself nude or nearly nude through mobile or Internet communication—sexting may actually be less common than most people think. In fact, national surveys suggest that only a small minority—between 3 to 7 percent—of teens are sexting [1, 2, 3]. Well, one reason may be because one salacious incident can easily seize the attention of all students in a school. You may have heard an alarming statistic that 40 to 53 percent of teens are sexting. It turns out that these data are from a small regional study with only 35 students from two inner-city schools in London . This study sought to understand more about teen sexuality through small group interviews with the 35 youth . The aim was not to make estimates about the general population. Additionally, this study defined sexting to include behaviors such as requesting or even harassing others for suggestive photos and distributing the photos to others without the consent of the person in them, among other behaviors . This greatly widens the definition of sexting and would thus make it seem like a large fraction of the interviewed students might engage in one particular behavior . In another example, a study conducted by MTV shows how the definition of sexting can affect the takeaway message.
Lauren Anjema was in sixth grade the first time a boy asked her to send him a nude photo of herself. Anjema, now As social isolation and device usage soared during the pandemic, digital-media experts say the sharing of nude selfies and other sexually explicit messages among teens and tweens has only gotten worse.