Sexting can be defined as the electronic transmission of pictures depicting nudity, semi-nudity, or the posting of sexually explicit pictures or writing online through text messages, mobile phones and webcams. Sexting has become particularly problematic today amongst a small group of young people and can result in sextortion, bullying and the participation in risky sexual activity.
According to Media Smarts, Canada's leading centre for digital and media literacy:
- 8% of students in grade 7-11 with cell phone access have sent sexts.
- By Grade 11, 15% of students with cell phone access have sent sexts.
- Sexting is far more common practice with young adults than with youth.
- Boys and girls are equally as likely to send sexts of themselves.
- Boys are significantly more likely than girls to be sent a sext directly from the person who created it – 32 percent of boys reported this compared to 17 percent of girls.
- 24% of students in grades 7-11 with cell phone access said that someone had sent them a sext of themselves directly (rather than being forwarded by a third party). Since the number of students who report getting a sext is larger than the number of students who have sent sexts, it seems likely that those students who do send sexts have done so on more than one occasion and to more than one recipient. In other words, there appears to be a small minority of students for whom sending sexts is considered to be a common behaviour. This finding is in line with research done elsewhere which suggests that certain groups are more likely than others to engage in sexting.
- There is a correlation between sexting and participation in risky sexual activity.
- Participants who knew someone who had sent a sext were 17 times more likely to do so themselves.
- LGBTQ youth are more likely to sext.
Why Do Youth Sext?
According to Media Smarts, youth sext:
- in lieu of sexual activity
- to show interest in someone they would like to date
- for sexually active youth, it is a sign of trust and intimacy
- as part of “truth or dare” game-playing
Strategies in Addressing Sexting
When addressing sexting:
- Do not focus on the negative consequences, most youths are aware of the consequences but actively choose to participate in sexting.
- Let your child know that only a very small percentage of the population actively participate in sexting.
- Model a healthy relationship.
- Empower your child to overcome the pressure to sext.
- Teach your child refusal skills and how to confidently say no to sext requests.
- Teach digital literacy and responsibility.
- Focus on the ethical considerations of sexting, including shaming and dehumanizing of victims by teaching empathy.