Sending sexts

Since sexting – and, in particular, our concerns about it – are regularly portrayed as a largely female phenomenon, it may be surprising that MediaSmarts’ YCWW data shows boys and girls being equally likely to send sexts of themselves.

Additionally, boys in this study are significantly more likely than girls to be sent a sext directly from the person who created it – 32 percent of boys reported this compared to 17 percent of girls. Overall, 24 percent of students in grades 7-11 with cell phone access said that someone had sent them a sext of themselves directly (rather than being forwarded by a third party). Since the number of students who report getting a sext is larger than the number of students who have sent sexts, it seems likely that those students who do send sexts have done so on more than one occasion to more than one recipient. In other words, there appears to be a small minority of students for whom sending sexts is considered to be a normal behaviour. This finding is in line with research done elsewhere which suggests that certain groups are more likely than others to engage in sexting: in particular, there is a correlation between sexting and other sexual activity – particularly, risky sexual activity.[1] As Eric Rice, a researcher at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles put it, “This is a behavior that a minority of adolescents are engaging in, but that minority is engaging in a group of risky sexual behaviors … not just sexting.”[2] This research found that certain groups, such as LGTBQ youth, are more likely to engage both in sexting and risky sexual behaviour. (The YCWW study did not ask any questions about students’ sexual orientation or identity.) This research also found that acquaintances’ behaviour is one of the strongest predictors of whether or not a youth will engage in sexting: participants who knew someone who had sent a sext were 17 times more likely to do so themselves.[3]


[1] Rice, Eric, Rhoades, H., Winetrobe, H., Sanchez, M., Montoya, J., Plant A. and Kordic, T. Sexually Explicit Cell Phone Messaging Associated With Sexual Risk Among Adolescents. Pediatrics; originally published online September 17, 2012
[2] Pittman, Genevra. “New study again links ‘sexting’ with risky sexual behaviour in teenagers.” Reuters, September 17 2012.
[3] Rice et al 2012.