Sexting among young people: Perceptions and practices

Lee, Murray, Crofts, Thomas, McGovern, Alyce and Milivojevic, Sanja (2015) Sexting among young people: Perceptions and practices. Trends and Issues in Crime and Criminal Justice (508). pp. 1-9. ISSN 0817-8542

tandi508.pdf - Published Version

Download (632kB) | Preview
Official URL:


The rapid development and adoption of online digital technologies has had a profound effect on the way young people conduct their social relationships. The emergence of sexting, or the distribution of sexually explicit photos and videos, has gained widespread attention and raised moral concerns. However, there remains little policy-relevant research on the prevalence of sexting and its impact on young people.This study provides a valuable contribution to the evidence base. In a survey of over 2,000 respondents, almost half reported having sent a sexual picture or video of themselves to another party, while two-thirds had received a sexual image. Sexting was prevalent among all age groups, with 13 to 15 year olds particularly likely to receive sexual images. Sexting was prominent among homosexual and bisexual respondents. Most sexting occurred between partners in committed relationships.The study found very little evidence of peer pressure or coercion to engage in sexting. Rather, young people reported engaging in the practice as a consensual and enjoyable part of their intimate relationships. The paper considers the implications of this for legal and policy responses to sexting. The way in which young people have integrated online and digital technology into their personal relationships and sexual development is an important emerging issue for researchers and policymakers. Over the past few years news media in Australia, North America and other Western countries have reported with concern on cases of sexting where minors have used mobile phone digital cameras to manufacture and distribute sexual images of themselves and/or others, in some cases falling foul of child abuse material or child pornography laws (Crofts & Lee 2013; Salter et al. 2013; Lee et al. 2013). Sexting is a term that originated in the media—a portmanteau created by collapsing the terms sex and texting. It is generally defined as the digital recording of nude or sexually suggestive or explicit images and their distribution by mobile phone messaging or through social networking platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat. Some commentary even extends the definition to the sending of sexually suggestive texts. As the Law Reform Committee of Victoria notes, the term sexting is evolving and ‘encompasses a wide range of practices, motivations and behaviours’ (2013: 15). These range from a person sharing a picture with a boyfriend or girlfriend to the boyfriend or girlfriend showing the picture to someone else, the recording of a sexual assault, or even an adult sending an explicit text to groom a child. While this is commonly referred to in media and public discourse as sexting, young people themselves do not typically use the term, preferring instead to use terms such as ‘naked selfies’, ‘nudies’ and ‘banana pics’ to describe the practice; so although the term sexting is deployed here, its problematic nature is also acknowledged. This paper presents the results of the survey component of a two-year multi-method Criminology Research Grant-funded project, and focuses on the prevalence and context of sexting among young people and their motivations for doing so. These results may have significant implications for the ways in which legislators, educators and policymakers might seek to address such behaviours by young people.

Item Type: Article
Subjects: M100 Law by area
M200 Law by Topic
M900 Other in Law
Department: Faculties > Business and Law > Northumbria Law School
Depositing User: Rachel Branson
Date Deposited: 22 Jul 2020 09:04
Last Modified: 31 Jul 2021 12:00

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item


Downloads per month over past year

View more statistics