It’s hard to think of a recent digital technology issue that’s captured the public imagination more than sexting. This may be because it combines elements of the classic moral panic with more modern “technopanic,” provoking worries not just about the morality of our children – and, in particular, young girls – but also about the possible effects of technology on how we grow, think and behave. As with most panics, of course, the issue is substantially more complicated and less sensational than we perceive it to be, and while it’s unlikely that our worries about sexting will ever seem in retrospect to be as absurd as our grandparents’ fears about crime comics, MediaSmarts’ new data shows that many of our beliefs and assumptions on the subject need closer examination.
Typically, youth 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.
There is little evidence that sending sexts is by itself a risky act: for example, one study done with American university students found that many reported positive experiences. 
Studies about the gendered aspects of sexting consistently show that while little criticism is attached to boys who send sexts, girls who do so are perceived as being sexually immoral: girls who sext are seen as using their sexuality to get public attention, while boys – even if their sexts become public – are assumed to be doing it only to get the attention of one prospective partner. 
Parents, schools and law enforcement agencies are grappling with how best to respond to this issue. In the United States, sexting amongst youth has resulted in teens facing child pornography charges.
Few issues capture our anxiety about young people and digital media so perfectly as sexting. As with technologies at least as far back as the telegraph, much of this anxiety has focused specifically on girls and women.
Moral disengagement is used to describe the ways in which we convince ourselves to do something that we know is wrong, or to not do something we know is right. MediaSmarts’ research looked at the impact of four moral disengagement mechanisms:
How common young people think sexting is has been identified as one of the strongest factors influencing whether they send sexts.
We have a few smartphone rules in our house: no phones after 9:30 p.m., no phones at the dinner table or other family events, and no phones in bedrooms.