Boys are just as likely as girls to send sexts of themselves, reveals a new study on young people, sexuality and the Internet

Ottawa, ON (May 29, 2014) – There is little gender difference in those youth who have sent a sext of themselves – defined as “a sexy, nude or partially nude photo” – to someone, although sexts of boys are more likely to be forwarded,– according to a study of Canadian students released today by MediaSmarts. Boys are also more likely than girls to have forwarded a sext sent to them and are twice as likely to report having received a sext that was forwarded by someone other than the original creator.

MediaSmarts surveyed over 5,400 students in classrooms across the country on their Internet behaviours and attitudes as part of its Young Canadians in a Wired World study. Sexuality and Romantic Relationships in the Digital Age examines issues such as sexting, romantic interactions online and accessing pornography and information about sexuality.

In the survey, questions about sexting were limited to students in grades 7-11 who had access to a cell phone. Eight percent of those students reported having sent a sext, rising to 15 percent by Grade 11.

“We found a relatively small number of students sent sexts of themselves, but a much larger number received and forwarded them – and that is where harm is most likely to occur,” says Cathy Wing, Co-Executive Director of MediaSmarts. “The findings point to the need to change the culture around forwarding sexts by promoting healthy relationships and helping youth to see this as an ethical issue.”

The number of boys seeking online pornography has increased since the survey was last conducted in 2005, with boys seeking it out at a much higher rate than girls. Boys who seek out pornography are likely to do so frequently, with the largest number of boys who seek out porn doing so once a week or more.

When it comes to relationships, youth interact mainly with friends and family and carry out romantic relationships more offline than online. They also have stronger expectations of privacy from romantic partners when it comes to reading private messages, sharing passwords and using geo-locational trackers.

Key findings include:

  • Fewer than one in ten students in grades 7-11 with access to a cell phone send sexts (9% of boys and 8% of girls).
  • However, just under a quarter (24%) have received a sext directly from the sender, and just over a fifth (21%) have received a sext that was forwarded to them by someone other than the original sender.
  • 85% of students who receive a sext created for them keep it private rather than forwarding it.
  • Sexts of boys are more likely to be forwarded than sexts of girls (26% compared to 20% of girls).
  • The number of students seeking pornography online has increased from 16 percent in 2005 to 23 percent in 2013.
  • Boys are much more likely to seek pornography online (grades 7-11): 40 percent of boys compared to 7 percent of girls and more likely to seek it out once a day (14%) or once a week (14%) than once a month (7%), once a year (2%) or less often (3%). 
  • Students who have a rule about sites they are not supposed to visit are more likely to say that they have never looked for pornography online and, if they have, are less likely to seek out pornography once a week or more.
  • 14% of boys and 12 percent of girls report that they have pretended to be someone else online to flirt.
  • 11% of boys and 6 percent of girls turn to the Internet to learn about sexuality (students in grades 4-11).

To view the Sexuality and Romantic Relationships in the Digital Age report, infographic and slide show, visit Follow the conversation using hashtag #YCWW.

Young Canadians in a Wired World – Phase III: Sexuality and Romantic Relationships in the Digital Age was made possible by financial contributions from the Canadian Internet Registration Authority, the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada and the Alberta Teachers’ Association.

The next report based on this data will look at will look at students’ habits, activities and attitudes towards offensive content. Past reports examined cyberbullying, online privacy and digital literacy in the classroom and in the home.


MediaSmarts is a Canadian not-for-profit centre for digital and media literacy. Its vision is that young people have the critical thinking skills to engage with media as active and informed digital citizens., @mediasmarts

Maya Shoucair, Communications Officer, MediaSmarts
613-224-7721 ext. 231