Sexting as a Part of Youth's Modern Sexual Communication

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The use of smartphones by youths is continuously increasing as the years go by. As the world continues to develop, more avenues for youths, particularly teenagers, are being created for them to build relationships, communicate and to form social networks. Unfortunately, one of the issues that authorities have lost control over is ‘Sexting’. Sexting, as defined by the 5 articles chosen, is the exchange of sexual content in the form of text, images, and videos to another person through a mobile phone. It is another word for sexual communication. From the information gathered, results show that the most used application for sexting is Snapchat.

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The age when youths start receiving their first sexual message varies from 15 to 16 years old. For youths at that particular age, involvement in sexting could play a role within the development period of adolescence. During adolescence, 15 to 16-year olds begin developing their sexuality and start experimenting with dating and forming romantic relationships. Mostly, the youths who admit to sending sext messages appeared to primarily start this behaviour within the context of a romantic relationship or in an effort to attract a particular desired partner. The most common reported reason for sexting throughout the articles is the “mutual interest between exclusive romantic partners” (Strohmaier, Murphy & DeMatteo, 2014, p.251) followed by “to impress/flirt with someone in whom I was romantically interested” (Strohmaier, Murphy & DeMatteo, 2014, p.251).

However, in the article ‘Sexting: adolescents’’ perceptions of the applications used for, motives for, and consequences of sexting’, the research showed that the main motive of youths for sexting was because they felt “compelled to respond” (Ouytsel, Van Gool, Walrave, Ponnet & Peeters, 2017, p.448) to a sexual message that they received. A more intelligent way to pressure someone indirectly is by sending own self sext message. By doing this, one is increasing his or her chances to get a similar message back. This shows that although many cases of youth sexting occur in the context of romantic relationships, pressure from friends may be another factor influencing youth participation in sexting.

Sexting has also been linked to peer pressure outside a romantic relationship. Youths might feel that they have to send sexts because they are under the impression that this behaviour is normal among their friends and that they need to do the same in order to get attention from others and to fit in in their group of friends.

All the five articles postulate that sexting is occurring when youths are still minors. Studies show that youths who are below the age of 18 years do not value the risks of ‘sexting’, they are not aware that their actions in sending sexual messages to friends can leave an effect on them throughout their whole life. The article ‘Sexting and young people’ show that “the viral spread of these images and the associated shame has reportedly led to social, psychological and legal consequences for victims”. (Walker, Sanci & Temple-Smith, 2011, p.9)

Minors risk being prosecuted in court when sending sexual material to each other. The article ‘Youth Sexting: Prevalence Rates, Driving Motivations, and the Deterrent Effect of Legal Consequences when interviewing youths’ states that youths “demonstrated a general lack of awareness regarding legal consequences of underage sexting, with knowledge of legal consequences having a modest deterrent effect.” (Strohmaier, Murphy & DeMatteo, 2014, p.245).

Lack of knowledge and awareness, in turn, apart from prosecution, may in turn lead to the name of the young person being listed on the Sex Offender’s List. Other far-reaching consequences are likely to reduce their ability to attain employment, lead a satisfactory home life, and so on. This can be clearly seen in the article ‘What do kids think about sexting?’ as the authors state that: “youth who were involved in sexting were less likely to consider sexting a crime and did not believe that sexting would hurt their chances of getting a job, hurt friendships, romantic relationships, or their relationship with their family”. (Gewirtz-Meydan, Mitchell & Rothman, 2018, p.256)

With the consensual exchange of a sext, youths expect privacy, specifically that the sext message will not be forwarded or shared with other people. ‘Trouble at teens fingertips: Youth Sexting and the law’ clarifies that all youths who were questioned believed that “maintaining the privacy of sexts was the expected social norm” (Holoyda, Landess, Sorrentino & Friedman, 2018, p.174). When the youths find out that their sexual images, videos and conversations are being shared among others, psychological issues fwill start developing. Results in this article shows that youths who in their life had sent any type of sexual material were more likely to develop impulsivity, depression and anxiety.

In conclusion, when connecting and comparing the five articles together, it can be clearly seen that mostly, the articles agree with each other’s statements, studies and results. The chosen articles were very relevant to the research topic as they discussed ‘what is sexting’, ‘the motives for youths to sext’, and ‘the awareness youths have on the consequences of sexting’. In doing this research, I gained a deeper understanding of what sexting means to youths and why they do it in the first place. Furthermore, I gained more knowledge in the field of both the legal, social, and psychological consequences of sexting and I am looking forward to continue my studies in the field.  

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