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Peer pressure, media blamed for teen 'sexting' trend

Kathleen Blanchard's picture

Sending and receiving sexy images via mobile devices, known as ‘sexting’ is found to be spawned by peer pressure, report Australian researchers.

Why young people engage in ‘sexting’ revealed through teen interviews

The finding, presented at the 2011 Australasian Sexual Health Conference in Canberra, comes from interviews that included 15 males and 18 females, aged 15 – 20 years, who cite several reasons they feel pressure to send sexual images to each other.

Media hype, said the teens, drives some of the behavior. In the interviews, young people said they felt compelled to engage in sexting because the media bombards our culture with sexual images of young people, creating pressure to follow suit.

Both boys and girls said peers pressure them into exchanging sexual images. Some of the pressure for sexting comes from boyfriends who send sexy images of themselves, then ask for the same in return.

In some instances, girls see others sexting and feel they should do the same.

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Sexting important for teen boys

For boys, sexting is important to avoid being ostracized by their peers, or being labeled “gay”.

In other instances, teens reported they were sent pornography videos or sexual images of people they knew without being asked.

Shelley Walker from the Primary Care Research Unit in the Department of General Practice at the University of Melbourne said, "The phenomenon has become a focus of much media reporting; however research regarding the issue is in its infancy, and the voice of young people is missing from this discussion and debate."

According to The Australian Communication & Media Authority, 90 percent of 15 to 17 year olds own a mobile phone.

Walker says …" continued meaningful dialogue is needed to address and prevent the negative consequences of sexting for young people."

The problem with sexting is that it can have lasting repercussions. The study finding highlights the importance of addressing ways to help teens avoid peer pressure that leads to ‘sexting’, through ongoing open dialogue about the possible ramifications.

Image credit: Morguefile



Apart from the results themselves, this survey interests me because it reflects how technology informs societal scripts. This is particularly salient in teen culture, run by those who have never lived without cell phones or the Internet. Unfortunately, teen sexting is an example of technology’s ill-effect on youth culture. There’s already been a lot of attention to cyber bullying, and now there’s proof of hi-tech peer pressure. I wish I could instead write posts about surveys studying the positive outcome of technology—communities built in support groups, or confidence from self-expression. I work for an online therapy practice, where we believe that technology can be used as a power resource to rebuild human connection, and facilitate personal growth. If you want to hear more about our practice, or our opinions on this survey, check out our blog: "Naked Therapy"