246534 Reports of “sexting” from a regional census of high school students

Wednesday, November 2, 2011: 1:05 PM

Shari Kessel Schneider, MSPH , Health and Human Development Division, Education Development Center, Inc., Waltham, MA
Robert Coulter, MPH , Department of Community Health Sciences, Boston University School of Public Health, Boston, MA
Olivia Alford, BA , Health and Human Development Division, Education Development Center, Inc., Newton, MA
Lydia O'Donnell, EdD , Health and Human Development Division, Education Development Center, Inc., Waltham, MA
Background/Purpose: The MetroWest Adolescent Health Survey is a multi-year regional initiative to provide communities with timely data on youth risk behaviors. To respond to local concerns, the survey includes questions on emerging issues, including “sexting.”

Methods: In Fall 2010, a census of students was conducted in 24 of 26 high schools in the MetroWest Boston region. Surveys were obtained from 23,187 students, representing 89% of students. Survey items defined sexting as “sending or forwarding a nude, sexually suggestive or explicit photo/video of someone you know using a cell phone or the Internet.”

Findings: 25.1% of students received a sext message, and 10.4% had sent, forwarded, or posted a sext message in the past 12 months. 5.0% had been victims of sexting. Males were more likely than females to receive a sext message (31.1% vs. 19.1%), but both genders were similarly likely to send sexts or be sexting victims. Non-heterosexually identified youth were substantially more likely to report all sexting involvements; for example, 15.1% were victims of sexting (vs. 4.1% of heterosexually-identified youth). Students who received or sent sext messages, or were sexting victims were more likely to report psychological distress; for example, sexting victims were twice as likely as nonvictims to report depressive symptoms (36.5% vs. 18.2%) and over five times as likely to report a suicide attempt (18.0% vs. 3.3%) in the past 12 months.

Conclusions: Sexting behavior involves a substantial proportion of high school students. The association between sexting and psychological distress must be addressed within anti-bullying programs.

Learning Areas:
Social and behavioral sciences

Learning Objectives:
1. Describe sociodemographic patterns in “sexting” behavior and psychological correlates of "sexting" 2. Discuss how a census can inform local school and community health planning, policies, and programs.

Keywords: Adolescent Health, Violence Prevention

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am qualified to present because I coordinated the research project on which this abstract is based and contributed substantially to the analysis.
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.