242080 Sexting: An emerging sexual behavior in online communities

Wednesday, November 2, 2011: 12:50 PM

Deborah Gordon-Messer, MPH , Prevention Research Center of Michigan, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI
Jose A. Bauermeister, MPH, PhD , Health Behavior and Health Education, University of Michigan School of Public Health, Ann Arbor, MI
Alison Grodzinski, MLIS , Prevention Research Center of Michigan, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI
Marc Zimmerman, PhD , Department of Health Behavior and Health Education, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI
Introduction: Sexting is a term used to describe sending sexually suggestive photos or messages online and may have lasting emotional, legal and sociological consequences. A PEW report suggested that over 20% of teens have sent and received sexts. Some scholars have cautioned that the increasing popularity of sexting may be the result of a lack of awareness of its potential dangers and consequences. Others have argued that sending sexts may be an emerging sexual behavior that may not have negative repercussions. This study explored the relationship between sexting and psychological correlates, including self-esteem, depression, and social support.

Methods: Using an adapted web-version of Respondent-Driven Sampling (webRDS), we recruited a sample of U.S. YA (ages 18 to 24; N=3,400). We examined bivariate relationships between the variables, followed by multivariate regression models examining the relationships between sexting and youths' sociodemographic, psychological well-being, and sexual behavior.

Results: 30% of respondents indicated that they had ever sent a sexually themed texts or nude photos. 40% of respondents indicated that they had ever received a sext. When combined, we found that 28% of respondents had both sent and received sexts. We found no differences by race, education, or sex in our analyses. We found no relationship between sexting and the psychological correlates in multivariate analyses.

Conclusions:Our findings suggest that sexting is an emerging sexual behavior among youth. We discuss the findings of this study, highlighting the absence of associations between sexting and psychological well-being, and propose directions for sex education initiatives.

Learning Areas:
Communication and informatics
Public health or related research

Learning Objectives:
1) Describe ”sexting” behavior among young adults in the United States. 2) Compare sexting behavior across sociodemographic characteristics and psychological factors. 3) Discuss implications of sexting behavior for sexual health intervention and research.

Keywords: Sexual Risk Behavior, Adolescent Health

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am the project manager for the Virtual Networks Study.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.