A new study finds that “sexting,” sending and receiving sexual images on a mobile phone, is powerfully influenced by peers in a hypersexualized media culture.
The Australian study is one of the first academic investigations into ‘sexting’ from a young person’s perspective. As in the United States, around 90 percent of Australian young people aged 15-17 own mobile phones.
According to graduate researcher Shelley Walker, the study highlights the pressure young people experience to engage in sexting. Investigators believe the knowledge gained from learning the perspective of young adults will aid in the development of responses to prevent and deal with the problem.
“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,” she said.
Researchers interviewed 33 young people (15 male and 18 female) aged 15 – 20 years.
Investigators believe the actions of young adults were in response to a highly sexualized media culture. That is, the young people believed this environment created pressure to engage in sexting.
In the interviews, young people discussed the pressure boys place on each other to have girls’ photos on their phones and computers. They said if boys refrained from engaging in the activity they were labeled “gay” or could be ostracized from the peer group.
Further, both genders talked about the pressure girls experienced from boyfriends or even strangers to reciprocate on exchanging sexual images. Some young women talked about the expectation (or more subtle pressure) to be involved in sexting, simply as a result of having viewed images of girls they know.
Both young men and women talked about being sent or shown images or videos, sometimes of people they knew or of pornography without actually having agreed to look at it first.
Walker said sexting is a rapidly changing problem as young people keep up with new technologies such as using video and Internet via mobile phones.
“Our study reveals how complex and ever-changing the phenomenon of ‘sexting’ is and that continued meaningful dialogue is needed to address and prevent the negative consequences of sexting for young people,” said Walker.
Source: University of Melbourne