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Does Peer Pressure Drive Sexting?

Does Peer Pressure Drive Sexting? In today’s world, mobile phones are an essential component in the life of a teen — as important as car keys, a purse, or any accessory.

Researchers suggest that cell phones, among other things, offer a sense of autonomy for those looking to hide from adult supervision.

Yet, despite their benefits, concerns have risen over the use of the mobile phone as an instrument to download, produce, and distribute sexual imagery.

A growing number of studies on adolescent mobile communication report that the consumption and distribution of pornographic imagery via mobile phones is common in adolescent peer groups.

Though very few studies have asked “why” adolescents choose to participate in sexting or the use of mobile porn, those that have asked “why” continually point to the influence of peer group dynamics.

In a new study, authors Mariek Vanden Abeele, Ph.D., Scott W. Campbell, PhD., Steven Eggermont, PhD., and Keith Roe, Ph.D. shed light on the connection between teen’s sexting and mobile porn use, and their social status.

The article is featured in the “Sex and the Media” issue of Media Psychology.

“We were intrigued by the fact that most teens appear aware of the potential risks of sexting, but nevertheless still commit to producing and distributing nude or semi-nude pictures of themselves to their peers,” said Vanden Abeele.

“We felt that a possible explanation for the fact that teenagers engage in sexting practices despite the obvious risks, could lie in the role of powerful peer group dynamics such as peer pressure and popularity.

“We also noticed that teenagers’ mobile porn use received little attention from both scholars and public opinion leaders, while current research suggests that this behavior is fairly prevalent among teens.”

Emerging research in the form of interview studies with adolescents shows that there is pressure to participate in sexting and mobile porn use in order to achieve peer acceptance, providing evidence that both behaviors are ‘used’ to display or gain status in a social circle.

In the current study, the researchers examined how four key aspects of peer group dynamics, namely same-sex popularity, other-sex popularity, perceived peer pressure, and need for popularity, are associated with sexting and mobile porn use among teenagers ages 11-20.

“A first interesting result in the study, is that for boys sexting was associated with higher (self-perceived) popularity among both boys and girls, while girls who reported having sent a sext indicated perceiving themselves as more popular among boys, but less popular among girls,” said Vanden Abeele.

“A second interesting result from our study is that mobile porn use was reported almost exclusively by male respondents, particularly by boys who experienced greater peer pressure.

“This finding aligns with what we know from earlier work on the consumption of magazine and video pornography in male peer groups, and suggests that downloading and exchanging mobile porn may be at least as much about proving one’s ‘manliness’ to others as it is about achieving sexual arousal.”

Vanden Abeele said the results of this study suggest that, in the eyes of teenagers, sexting and mobile porn use do bring short-term benefits in terms of enhancing popularity in the peer group that may in fact outweigh potential long-term risks associated with these behaviors.

Source: Alpha Galileo – Taylor & Francis

Adolescents texting photo by shutterstock.

Does Peer Pressure Drive Sexting?

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2018). Does Peer Pressure Drive Sexting?. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 25, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Aug 2018 (Originally: 24 Feb 2014)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Aug 2018
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