Information on Sexting
Why do they do it? What makes them do it?
As it is a modern phenomenon there are no conclusive studies yet, but all research points to several reasons:
- Lack of experience and perspective makes teenagers underestimate risks associated with sexting behaviour. Minors are less aware of the risks involved and it is difficult for them to appreciate the danger, meaning behave in an over-confident manner. They produce and distribute sexting as a present for their partner or as a way of flirting.
- They think that images on a mobile are safe and they cannot imagine the numerous ways in which these images may be accessed by others, such as robbery, a mistake, a joke, loss, or the will of their owner.
- They fully rely on the discretion of the person who receives the content (they think that their love will last forever). They lack the necessary life experience and they do not think that in life things change due to numerous factors.
- They also do it in response to similar messages that they have received and even say that they feel certain peer pressure, either from friends or the future receiver of the contents.
- They feel certain peer pressure to gain notoriety (become popular) and be accepted in the digital context, which is very important for them. This factor, together with their hormones running wild, may create imprudent combinations.
- Social influences and role models are far from perfect. The display of sexual relations and naked images by non-professional, normal people abound on Internet. As people can see many anonymous people engaging in sexual activity on the Internet, doing the same does not seem very serious either. “Posing naked” is common and even seen as normal, to some extent.
- They are not aware of the consequences that a compromising image can have on their life if it becomes public.
- The natural lack of perception of risk associated with adolescence and transgressive spirit trigger certain challenges. In some cases it is just fun, in others, it serves to flirt or give another dimension to a relationship.
There are two main factors that lead to sexting between teenagers:
- Lately, we have witnessed a premature sexualisation of childhood. This concept refers to the tendency for adolescence to being at earlier ages and it mostly occurs to girls. The fact that minors take part in sexual behaviour which is not appropriate for their age, may involve psychosocial risks like sexting.
- In the cultural context in which many teenagers grow, there is a strong cult of the body and of celebrity, and mass media (especially TV) promotes these values and others, like competitiveness at all levels (who has the best body, the greatest number of friends, who is the most popular, etc.). The fact that many sport, film or music stars practise sexting, and this is transmitted by mass media, helps normalise and even give prestige to this activity among teenagers. Several studies show that the main reasons for producing or sending sexts are the following:
- Showing off
- Peer pressure
A research study published in 2011 by UNICEF indicated that young people often feel more comfortable sharing intimate information or behaving in a sexualised way online that in real life and that there is a significant number of teenagers who publish sexual images of themselves on the Internet.
This project has been funded with support from the European Commission. This publication reflects the views only of the author, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.