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P4.078 A Literature Review of Sexting Attitudes and Risk Factors
  1. L Lewis1,2,
  2. R Skinner3,
  3. L Watchirs-Smith1,
  4. S Cooper4,
  5. J Kaldor1,
  6. R Guy1
  1. 1The Kirby Institute, University of New South UK, Sydney, Australia
  2. 2The University of Sydney, Sydney, Australia
  3. 3Sydney University Discipline of Paediatrics and Child Health, The Children’s Hospital at Westmead, Sydney, Australia
  4. 4Sydney University Western Sydney Sexual Health Centre, Sydney, Australia


Background Sexting includes sending, receiving or forwarding sexually explicit material via mobile phone, and occurs in about a third of teenagers. Much of the available information on this relatively recent phenomenon comes from popular press. Given the legal and psychosocial consequences of sexting, it is important to understand why teenagers sext and the characteristics of young people involved in sexting.

Methods We conducted a structured literature review. PubMed, PsycINFO and Embase were searched to February 2013, using ‘sexting’ as key term. We extracted data on; reasons for sexting, attitudes, and factors statistically associated with sexting.

Results Seven studies were included; most were cross-sectional, all were quantitative and conducted in the United States. Six studies assessed correlates of sexting in teenagers/young adults and found the following statistical associations; older adolescent, dating, sexually active, sexual risk behaviours, substance use, lower parental educational, peers sexting, and greater texting frequency. Girls were more likely to be senders, boys more likely to be receivers and to have asked someone to sext. Sexually active respondents were more likely to be both senders and receivers. Two studies explored attitudes about sexting finding those who sent pictures were more likely to consider sexting acceptable, over one third of non-sexters reported positive attitudes towards sexting, and most of those who sent pictures were bothered by having been asked to sext. Expecting serious legal consequences for getting caught sexting did not reduce reported sexting.

Conclusion Many young people don’t perceive sexting negatively. Sexting may either be part of a cluster of risky sexual behaviours or in fact lead to sexual risk behaviour. Because of the cross-sectional nature of the studies, we were unable to determine causality. Additional research is needed to understand contexts in which sexting occurs, and motivations. Longitudinal designs are required to explore causality with sexual risk behaviour.

  • sexting
  • sexual risk behavior
  • Young People

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