In our nationally-representative telephone survey conducted from June to September we asked teens whether they had sent or received sexually suggestive nude or nearly nude photos or videos of themselves or of someone they knew on their cell phones.
Partnering with the University of Michigan, in October we conducted a series of focus groups with teens ages and during those groups, teens took a private paper survey in which they wrote about their experiences with sexting.
These questions focus on the sending and receiving of images via cell phone, and do not address suggestive text messages without visual content or those shared by other means such as email or online social networks.
But otherwise, there is little variation across age groups in the likelihood of having sent a sexual image by text. There are no statistically significant differences in reports of receipt of these images by gender. There are some indications that teens who send and receive suggestive images via text message are likely to be those whose phones are more central to their lives than less intense cell phone users.
Teens in our focus groups outlined three general scenarios in which sexually suggestive images are shared or forwarded. In one situation, images are shared between two romantic partners, in lieu of, as a prelude to, or as a part of sexual activity. But other images are sent between friends, or between two people where at least one of the pair is hoping to become romantically involved.
Sexually suggestive images sent to the privacy of the phone have become a form of relationship currency. One senior girl reflected:. It is important to note that many teens have not sent or received or had sexually suggestive images forwarded to them.
On one end of the spectrum are the teens who view sexting as a safer alternative to real life sexual activity. Other teens avoid it because of their concerns about legality and the potential for public release of the images. Some teens brand these images, particularly images of girls, as inappropriate and make judgments about the people who appear in them.
One older high school boy wrote,. Teens make fine distinctions in what is acceptable and what is unacceptable in transmitted images. When teens in the focus groups were asked how common they believed sexting to be, the answers covered the spectrum, from infrequent to very common. What is the role of parents here?
The picture would have nudity, but I put those on security for my phone. One parental intervention that may relate to a lower likelihood of sending of sexually suggestive images was parental restriction of text messaging.
Teens who sent sexually suggestive nude or nearly nude images were less likely to have parents who reported limiting the number of texts or other messages the teen could send. About Pew Research Center Pew Research Center is a nonpartisan fact tank that informs the public about the issues, attitudes and trends shaping the world. It conducts public opinion polling, demographic research, media content analysis and other empirical social science research.
Pew Research Center does not take policy positions. It is a subsidiary of The Pew Charitable Trusts. If you have been invited to participate in one of our surveys, please click here. Home U. Main More. Three Basic Sexting Scenarios Teens in our focus groups outlined three general scenarios in which sexually suggestive images are shared or forwarded. Just my girlfriend sending pictures of herself to me and me sending pictures of myself to her.
Then she was supposed to come to my school because she got kicked out of her school because it was a Catholic school…. Girls will send them sometimes, not often. Sometimes a guy will get one and forward it to all his friends. This was the only time. It was someone I knew for a while but we began to not be friends.
Boys usually ask for them or start that type of conversation. My boyfriend, or someone I really liked asked for them. At the time, it was no big deal.
But now looking back it was definitely inappropriate and over the line. Sexting is not as bad. And at my school you can get in trouble for it. They do it to attract attention. You can ruin your reputation. Sometimes I wonder how girls can send naked pics to a boy. Still, some teens believe sexting is quite prevalent. They see it as a way of flirting that may possibly lead to more for them. Page 1 You are reading page 2 Page 3 Page 4. Note: sexting is a topic with a relatively high level of social disapproval.
This raises the possibility that any time any researcher asks questions about the subject that respondents will not admit to engaging in the socially subject behavior, which may result in findings that underreport the actual incidence of a behavior. And while focus groups are not representative samples, the number of teens in our focus groups who were able to talk about these experiences suggests that this may be the case. Sign up for our election newsletter. Defining generations: Where Millennials end and Generation Z begins.
Fact Tank September 6, Are you in the American middle class? Find out with our income calculator. Fact Tank November 28, Social Media Use in Social Trends January 17, Research Areas U. We need to confirm your email address. To complete the subscription process, please click the link in the email we just sent you.