Sexting: Self-Expression or Sexual Attention

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Dr. Eric Landrum


My study examined the phenomenon of adolescents and young adults engaging in a new technological trend, sexting: a transmission of nude or semi-nude images (photos, videos) or sexually oriented text of themselves to others through texting, e-mail, or instant messaging. The consequences of sexting can be harsh. Therefore, understanding the motivations and behaviors behind sexting will aid educators, parents and communities to understand, better relate to, and educate teens and young adults about this risky trend. My research focused on how often these types of messages are sent and whether or not sexting was motivated by sexual desire or self-expression. A pencil-and-paper survey of 110 undergraduate college students was conducted. Results showed that 56.4% of those surveyed have sent sexting messages at least once. Of those messages, 44% of the participants had sent nude/partially nude photos/video of themselves on at least one occasion. The overall motivation appears to be a form of self-expression rather than a sexual invitation, suggesting that sexting is an increasing trend of self-expression among adolescents and young adults. This study clearly demonstrates and contributes to the idea that a greater number of those who are sending sexting messages either in the form of photos, video, or text are doing so as a form of harmless self-expression not as an invitation to engage in sexual intercourse. Given the lack of research on this topic, little is known about the motivations of sexting behaviors. For this reason, continued research will allow educators, parents and communities to make choices that are more informed in regards to sexting and to understand the ever-changing advances that technology and evolution has on society. Research, education, and awareness are critical in to understanding the sexting phenomenon.

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