Why kids sext

A recent phenomenon relating to young people and technology is “sexting”, where sexual, nude and semi-nude images are exchanged electronically. MediaSmarts’ Young Canadians in a Wired World (YCWW) research has found that a relatively small number of students send sexts: just eight percent of students in grades 7-11 with cell phone access (though this rises to 15 percent by Grade 11).

Typically, sexting occurs in three contexts: in lieu of sexual activity for younger adolescents who are not yet physically sexually active; to show interest in someone a teen would like to date; and, for sexually active youth, as proof of trust and intimacy. Exchanging sexual images may also be part of “truth or dare” game-playing among younger adolescents or goofing around while mimicking “sexy” media images. However, it’s important to remember that sexting is not only a youth phenomenon: one 2014 study found that it is substantially more common among young adults than among youth.[1]

Even though many young people consider this practice as “nothing important”, some, particularly girls, may feel forced to provide such pictures and “nothing important” can quickly become “something important” if intimate images and messages are distributed to a wider audience. One study of first-year university students’ experiences with sexting found that girls who had been coerced or pressured into sending sexts were three times more likely to have experienced negative consequences than those who sent them willingly.[2]

 


 

[1] Döring, N. (2014). Consensual sexting among adolescents: Risk prevention through abstinence education or safer sexting?. Cyberpsychology: Journal of Psychosocial Research on Cyberspace, 8(1), article 9. doi: 10.5817/CP2014-1-9
[2] Englander, Elizabeth. Low Risk Associated With Most Teenage Sexting: A Study of 617 18-Year-Olds. Massachusetts Aggression Reduction Center, 2012.