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Consensual sexting among adolescents: Risk prevention through abstinence education or safer sexting?

Abstract

Sexting – that is, the private exchange of self-produced sexual images via cell phone or the internet – has been widely discussed in public and academic discourses as a new high-risk behavior among youths (especially girls) that should be prevented through better education about the various and severe risks it poses. This paper summarizes existing data on sexting prevalence (17 studies), which reveal that sexting is much more common among adults than among youths, with increasing prevalence among adolescents as they grow older. The paper then looks at the current state of sexting research by reviewing all 50 sexting papers in the PsycINFO and PubMed databases published between 2009 and 2013 regarding their coverage of the risks and/or opportunities associated with sexting. Most of the papers (79%) address adolescent sexting as risky behavior and link it to sexual objectification and violence, to risky sexual behavior, and to negative consequences like bullying by peers and criminal prosecution under child pornography laws. In opposition to this deviance discourse, a normalcy discourse is appearing in the literature that interprets sexting as normal intimate communication within romantic and sexual relationships, both among adults and adolescents who are exploring and growing into adult relationships. Next, the paper analyzes the sexting risk prevention messages of 10 online educational campaigns. Such campaigns typically rely on scare scenarios, emphasize the risk of bullying and criminal prosecution, engage in female victim blaming, and recommend complete abstinence from sexting. The paper closes by questioning the abstinence approach in sexting education, and makes suggestions on how to move towards an evidence-based approach to sexting risk prevention that acknowledges both adolescents' vulnerability and sexual agency.

Bibliographic citation

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:http://dx.doi.org/10.5817/CP2014-1-9

Keywords

sexting; sexually explicit user generated content; cell phone; gender; bullying; media education

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https://doi.org/10.5817/CP2014-1-9


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Davia B. Steinberg, Valerie A. Simon, Bryan G. Victor, Poco D. Kernsmith, Joanne P. Smith-Darden
Archives of Sexual Behavior  vol: 48,  issue: 8,  first page: 2321,  year: 2019  
https://doi.org/10.1007/s10508-019-1414-9

18. Sending Nudes: Sex, Self-Rated Mate Value, and Trait Machiavellianism Predict Sending Unsolicited Explicit Images
Evita March, Danielle L. Wagstaff
Frontiers in Psychology  vol: 8,  year: 2017  
https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2017.02210

19. Images across Europe: The sending and receiving of sexual images and associations with interpersonal violence in young people's relationships
Marsha Wood, Christine Barter, Nicky Stanley, Nadia Aghtaie, Cath Larkins
Children and Youth Services Review  vol: 59,  first page: 149,  year: 2015  
https://doi.org/10.1016/j.childyouth.2015.11.005

20. Sexting: adolescents’ perceptions of the applications used for, motives for, and consequences of sexting
Joris Van Ouytsel, Ellen Van Gool, Michel Walrave, Koen Ponnet, Emilie Peeters
Journal of Youth Studies  first page: 1,  year: 2016  
https://doi.org/10.1080/13676261.2016.1241865

21. Sexting Among Adolescents: The Emotional Impact and Influence of the Need for Popularity
Rosario Del Rey, Mónica Ojeda, José A. Casas, Joaquín A. Mora-Merchán, Paz Elipe
Frontiers in Psychology  vol: 10,  year: 2019  
https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2019.01828

22. Association of Sexting With Sexual Behaviors and Mental Health Among Adolescents
Camille Mori, Jeff R. Temple, Dillon Browne, Sheri Madigan
JAMA Pediatrics  vol: 173,  issue: 8,  first page: 770,  year: 2019  
https://doi.org/10.1001/jamapediatrics.2019.1658

23. The associations between sex drive, sexual self-concept, sexual orientation, and exposure to online victimization in Italian adolescents: Investigating the mediating role of verbal and visual sexting behaviors
D. Marengo, M. Settanni, C. Longobardi
Children and Youth Services Review  vol: 102,  first page: 18,  year: 2019  
https://doi.org/10.1016/j.childyouth.2019.04.023

24. Are Online Sexual Activities and Sexting Good for Adults’ Sexual Well-Being? Results From a National Online Survey
Nicola Döring, M. Rohangis Mohseni
International Journal of Sexual Health  vol: 30,  issue: 3,  first page: 250,  year: 2018  
https://doi.org/10.1080/19317611.2018.1491921

25. Vulnerable Young People and Their Experience of Online Risks
Aiman El Asam, Adrienne Katz
Human–Computer Interaction  vol: 33,  issue: 4,  first page: 281,  year: 2018  
https://doi.org/10.1080/07370024.2018.1437544

26. Unpacking “Sexting”: A Systematic Review of Nonconsensual Sexting in Legal, Educational, and Psychological Literatures
Michelle A. Krieger
Trauma, Violence, & Abuse  vol: 18,  issue: 5,  first page: 593,  year: 2017  
https://doi.org/10.1177/1524838016659486

27. Handbuch Online-Kommunikation
Nicola Döring
ISBN 978-3-658-18016-4  Chapter 8,  first page: 167,  year: 2019  
https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-658-18016-4_8

28. The Nature and Extent of Sexting Among a National Sample of Middle and High School Students in the U.S.
Justin W. Patchin, Sameer Hinduja
Archives of Sexual Behavior  vol: 48,  issue: 8,  first page: 2333,  year: 2019  
https://doi.org/10.1007/s10508-019-1449-y

29. Psychological Correlates of Teen Sexting in three Countries – Direct and Indirect Associations between Self-control, Self-esteem, and Sexting
Sebastian Wachs, Michelle F. Wright, Karsten D. Wolf
International Journal of Developmental Science  vol: 11,  issue: 3-4,  first page: 109,  year: 2017  
https://doi.org/10.3233/DEV-160212

30. Visual gossiping: non-consensual ‘nude’ sharing among young people in Denmark
Katrine Bindesbøl Holm Johansen, Bodil Maria Pedersen, Tine Tjørnhøj-Thomsen
Culture, Health & Sexuality  vol: 21,  issue: 9,  first page: 1029,  year: 2019  
https://doi.org/10.1080/13691058.2018.1534140

31. Critical Issues Impacting Science, Technology, Society (STS), and Our Future
Samuel E. Ehrenreich, Diana J. Meter, Marion K. Underwood
ISBN 9781522579502  chapter 6,  first page: 124,  year: 2019  
https://doi.org/10.4018/978-1-5225-7949-6.ch006

32. Sexting
Michel Walrave, Joris Van Ouytsel, Koen Ponnet, Jeff R. Temple
ISBN 978-3-319-71882-8  Chapter 1,  first page: 1,  year: 2018  
https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-71882-8_1

33. Sexting Among Married Couples: Who Is Doing It, and Are They More Satisfied?
Brandon T. McDaniel, Michelle Drouin
Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking  vol: 18,  issue: 11,  first page: 628,  year: 2015  
https://doi.org/10.1089/cyber.2015.0334

34. Adolescent Sexting: The Roles of Self-Objectification and Internalization of Media Ideals
Ashton Gerding Speno, Jennifer Stevens Aubrey
Psychology of Women Quarterly  vol: 43,  issue: 1,  first page: 88,  year: 2019  
https://doi.org/10.1177/0361684318809383

35. Sexting, Web-Based Risks, and Safety in Two Representative National Samples of Young Australians: Prevalence, Perspectives, and Predictors
Alyssa C Milton, Benjamin A Gill, Tracey A Davenport, Mitchell Dowling, Jane M Burns, Ian B Hickie
JMIR Mental Health  vol: 6,  issue: 6,  first page: e13338,  year: 2019  
https://doi.org/10.2196/13338

36. Encyclopedia of Mobile Phone Behavior
Lara Karaian, Andrew Tompkins
ISBN 9781466682405  chapter 118,  first page: 1500,  year: 2015  
https://doi.org/10.4018/978-1-4666-8239-9.ch118

37. Management of non-consensually shared youth-produced sexual images: A Delphi study with adolescents as experts
Ethel Quayle, Laura Cariola
Child Abuse & Neglect  vol: 95,  first page: 104064,  year: 2019  
https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chiabu.2019.104064

38. A Rights-Based Approach to Youth Sexting: Challenging Risk, Shame, and the Denial of Rights to Bodily and Sexual Expression Within Youth Digital Sexual Culture
Emily Setty
International Journal of Bullying Prevention  year: 2019  
https://doi.org/10.1007/s42380-019-00050-6

39. Gender, Pressure, Coercion and Pleasure: Untangling Motivations for Sexting Between Young People
Murray Lee, Thomas Crofts
British Journal of Criminology  vol: 55,  issue: 3,  first page: 454,  year: 2015  
https://doi.org/10.1093/bjc/azu075

40. Insecure attachments: Attachment, emotional regulation, sexting and condomless sex among women in relationships
Leora Trub, Tyrel J. Starks
Computers in Human Behavior  vol: 71,  first page: 140,  year: 2017  
https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chb.2017.01.052

41. Individual differences and developmental trends in sexting motivations
Dora Bianchi, Mara Morelli, Roberto Baiocco, Antonio Chirumbolo
Current Psychology  year: 2019  
https://doi.org/10.1007/s12144-019-00398-4

42. Family functioning patterns predict teenage girls’ sexting
Dora Bianchi, Mara Morelli, Roberto Baiocco, Elena Cattelino, Fiorenzo Laghi, Antonio Chirumbolo
International Journal of Behavioral Development  first page: 016502541987303,  year: 2019  
https://doi.org/10.1177/0165025419873037

43. Cyberpsychology as Everyday Digital Experience across the Lifespan
Dave Harley, Julie Morgan, Hannah Frith
ISBN 978-1-137-59200-2  Chapter 5,  first page: 105,  year: 2018  
https://doi.org/10.1057/978-1-137-59200-2_5

44. Teens and 'Sexting' in New Zealand: Prevalence and Attitudes
Edgar Pacheco, Neil Melhuish
SSRN Electronic Journal   year: 2017  
https://doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3128598

45. “Sex Pics?”: Longitudinal Predictors of Sexting Among Adolescents
Manuel Gámez-Guadix, Patricia de Santisteban
Journal of Adolescent Health  vol: 63,  issue: 5,  first page: 608,  year: 2018  
https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jadohealth.2018.05.032

46. The Role of Child Sexual Abuse Images in Coercive and Non-Coercive Relationships with Adolescents: A Thematic Review of the Literature
Ethel Quayle, Karen Cooper
Child & Youth Services  vol: 36,  issue: 4,  first page: 312,  year: 2015  
https://doi.org/10.1080/0145935X.2015.1092840

47. A Prospective Study of High-School Adolescent Sexting Behavior and Psychological Distress
Arta Dodaj, Kristina Sesar, Slavica Jerinić
The Journal of Psychology  first page: 1,  year: 2019  
https://doi.org/10.1080/00223980.2019.1666788

48. Feind oder Freund in meiner Hosentasche? – Zur Rolle von Individuum, Peergroup und Eltern für die (dys)funktionale Handynutzung
Karin Knop, Dorothée Hefner
Praxis der Kinderpsychologie und Kinderpsychiatrie  vol: 67,  issue: 2,  first page: 204,  year: 2018  
https://doi.org/10.13109/prkk.2018.67.2.204

49. Offline and Online Sexual Risk Behavior among Youth in the Netherlands: Findings from “Sex under the Age of 25”
Hanneke De Graaf, Mirthe Verbeek, Marieke Van den Borne, Suzanne Meijer
Frontiers in Public Health  vol: 6,  year: 2018  
https://doi.org/10.3389/fpubh.2018.00072

50. I’ll Show You Mine so You’ll Show Me Yours: Motivations and Personality Variables in Photographic Exhibitionism
Flora Oswald, Alex Lopes, Kaylee Skoda, Cassandra L. Hesse, Cory L. Pedersen
The Journal of Sex Research  first page: 1,  year: 2019  
https://doi.org/10.1080/00224499.2019.1639036

51. Longitudinal relationships between sexting and involvement in both bullying and cyberbullying
Mónica Ojeda, Rosario Del Rey, Simon C. Hunter
Journal of Adolescence  vol: 77,  first page: 81,  year: 2019  
https://doi.org/10.1016/j.adolescence.2019.10.003

52. The Palgrave Handbook of Sexuality Education
Kath Albury, Amy Adele Hasinoff, Theresa Senft
ISBN 978-1-137-40033-8  Chapter 26,  first page: 527,  year: 2017  
https://doi.org/10.1057/978-1-137-40033-8_26

53. The International Encyclopedia of Media Literacy
Joris Ouytsel, Michel Walrave, Koen Ponnet, Jeff R. Temple
ISBN 9781118978238  first page: 1,  year: 2018  
https://doi.org/10.1002/9781118978238.ieml0219

54. Jahrbuch Medienpädagogik 12
Sebastian Wachs, Karsten D. Wolf
ISBN 978-3-658-09809-4  Chapter 5,  first page: 71,  year: 2015  
https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-658-09809-4_5

55. Sexting and risky sexual behaviours among undergraduate students in Botswana: An exploratory study
Obakeng L. Makgale, Ilse Elisabeth Plattner
Cyberpsychology: Journal of Psychosocial Research on Cyberspace  vol: 11,  issue: 2,  year: 2017  
https://doi.org/10.5817/CP2017-2-1

56. Sexting as sexual stigma: The paradox of sexual self-representation in digital youth cultures
Sander De Ridder
European Journal of Cultural Studies  vol: 22,  issue: 5-6,  first page: 563,  year: 2019  
https://doi.org/10.1177/1367549418810080

57. Prevalence and profile of sexting among adolescents in Ecuador
Paula Yépez-Tito, Marta Ferragut, María J. Blanca
Journal of Youth Studies  vol: 22,  issue: 4,  first page: 505,  year: 2019  
https://doi.org/10.1080/13676261.2018.1515475

58. (Don’t) Look at Me! How the Assumed Consensual or Non-Consensual Distribution Affects Perception and Evaluation of Sexting Images
Arne Dekker, Frederike Wenzlaff, Anne Daubmann, Hans O. Pinnschmidt, Peer Briken
Journal of Clinical Medicine  vol: 8,  issue: 5,  first page: 706,  year: 2019  
https://doi.org/10.3390/jcm8050706

59. Assessing the Links of Sexting, Cybervictimization, Depression, and Suicidal Ideation Among University Students
José Luis Jasso Medrano, Fuensanta Lopez Rosales, Manuel Gámez-Guadix
Archives of Suicide Research  vol: 22,  issue: 1,  first page: 153,  year: 2018  
https://doi.org/10.1080/13811118.2017.1304304

60. Sexting
Kathleen Van Royen, Karolien Poels, Heidi Vandebosch, Michel Walrave
ISBN 978-3-319-71882-8  Chapter 6,  first page: 81,  year: 2018  
https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-71882-8_6

61. Sexting: A new, digital vehicle for intimate partner aggression?
Michelle Drouin, Jody Ross, Elizabeth Tobin
Computers in Human Behavior  vol: 50,  first page: 197,  year: 2015  
https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chb.2015.04.001

62. Soziale Onlinenetzwerke in der Psychotherapie mit Jugendlichen
Michael Borg-Laufs
Psychotherapeut  vol: 60,  issue: 2,  first page: 151,  year: 2015  
https://doi.org/10.1007/s00278-015-0008-9

63. “When It Deviates It Becomes Harassment, Doesn’t It?” A Qualitative Study on the Definition of Sexting According to Adolescents and Young Adults, Parents, and Teachers
Yara Barrense-Dias, Joan-Carles Surís, Christina Akre
Archives of Sexual Behavior  vol: 48,  issue: 8,  first page: 2357,  year: 2019  
https://doi.org/10.1007/s10508-018-1358-5

64. Sext education: pedagogies of sex, gender and shame in the schoolyards ofTaggedandExposed
Amy Shields Dobson, Jessica Ringrose
Sex Education  vol: 16,  issue: 1,  first page: 8,  year: 2016  
https://doi.org/10.1080/14681811.2015.1050486

65. A systematic review of the current knowledge regarding revenge pornography and non-consensual sharing of sexually explicit media
Kate Walker, Emma Sleath
Aggression and Violent Behavior  vol: 36,  first page: 9,  year: 2017  
https://doi.org/10.1016/j.avb.2017.06.010

66. Construction and Validation of the Intimate Images Diffusion Scale Among Adolescents
María Penado, María Luisa Rodicio-García, María Marcos Cuesta, Tania Corrás
Frontiers in Psychology  vol: 10,  year: 2019  
https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2019.01485

67. Sex(t) Talk: A Qualitative Analysis of Young Adults’ Negotiations of the Pleasures and Perils of Sexting
Melissa Burkett
Sexuality & Culture  vol: 19,  issue: 4,  first page: 835,  year: 2015  
https://doi.org/10.1007/s12119-015-9295-0

68. Technology-mediated sexual interaction and relationships: a systematic review of the literature
Erin Leigh Courtice, Krystelle Shaughnessy
Sexual and Relationship Therapy  vol: 32,  issue: 3-4,  first page: 269,  year: 2017  
https://doi.org/10.1080/14681994.2017.1397948

69. Does body dissatisfaction influence sexting behaviors in daily life?
Dominika Howard, Bianca Klettke, Mathew Ling, Isabel Krug, Matthew Fuller-Tyszkiewicz
Computers in Human Behavior  vol: 101,  first page: 320,  year: 2019  
https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chb.2019.07.033

70. Whether or not to engage in sexting: Explaining adolescent sexting behaviour by applying the prototype willingness model
Michel Walrave, Koen Ponnet, Joris Van Ouytsel, Ellen Van Gool, Wannes Heirman, Anouk Verbeek
Telematics and Informatics  vol: 32,  issue: 4,  first page: 796,  year: 2015  
https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tele.2015.03.008

71. “I keep hearing reports on the news that it's a real problem at the moment”: Public health nurses’ understandings of sexting practices among young people
Caroline Bradbury-Jones, Sally Bradshaw, Maria Clark, Alison Lewis
Health & Social Care in the Community  vol: 27,  issue: 4,  first page: 1063,  year: 2019  
https://doi.org/10.1111/hsc.12723

72. Children in Identified Sexual Images - Who Are they? Self- and Non-Self-Taken Images in the International Child Sexual Exploitation Image Database 2006-2015
Ethel Quayle, Linda S. Jonsson, Karen Cooper, James Traynor, Carl Göran Svedin
Child Abuse Review  vol: 27,  issue: 3,  first page: 223,  year: 2018  
https://doi.org/10.1002/car.2507