Sexting by young people under 18 much more common than believed

Scientists found that average prevalence for sending sexts is 14.8 per cent
Scientists found that average prevalence for sending sexts is 14.8 per cent

A new study has found that sexting by young people under 18 is much more common than believed with an estimated 1 in 7 sending sexts and 1 in 4 receiving them. Based on these findings scientists urge for inclusion of sexting as a component of sex education wherein its potential consequences should regularly be provided to students.

Sexting is a form of messaging wherein two parties share sexually explicit images, videos, or messages through electronic means. Sexting has been receiving a lot of attention from the popular press and an accumulating amount of attention in the empirical literature. However, the true public health importance of youth sexting has been unclear because the field is handicapped by inconsistent information regarding its prevalence, scientists note.

Scientists carried out a review of research literature from 1990 to 2016 with the following criteria: participants in the study were younger than 18 years; the study reported the prevalence of 1 or more act of sending, receiving, or forwarding without consent or having one’s sext forwarded without consent; the definition of sexting was consistent with the sending, receiving, or forwarding of sexually explicit images, videos, and/or messages, a definition consistent with previous literature reviews; both prevalence and sample size were provided; and the study was available in English.

A total of 39 studies were included with 110,380 participants. Scientists found that average prevalence for sending sexts is 14.8 per cent; average prevalence for receiving sexts is 27.4 per cent; prevalence of forwarding sext without consent is 12 per cent; and prevalence of having sext forwarded without consent is 8.4 per cent.

The prevalence of sexting has increased in recent years and increases as youth age. Further research focusing on nonconsensual sexting is necessary to appropriately target and inform intervention, education, and policy efforts, scientists concluded.


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