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Comunicar Journal 64: Children, youth and media in the era of smart devices: Risks, threats and opportunities (Vol. 28 - 2020)

Sexting in adolescents: Prevalence and behaviours


Sexting is among the practices used by young people to explore their sexuality. Although an educational response to all facets of this phenomenon is recommended, little research has been published to date in Spain that analyses its prevalence by differentiating between the different types of sexting behaviours: sending, receiving, third-party forwarding, and receiving via an intermediary. This gap in the research is addressed by exploring: 1) Sexting prevalence, differentiating between behaviours; 2) Relationships between sexting behaviours and gender, age, sexual orientation, having a romantic/sexual partner, social networking sites used, and the degree of normalisation and willingness to sext; 3) Gender-based differences. In total, 3,314 adolescents aged 12 to 16 years participated in the study. The most frequent sexting behaviours were identified as receiving and receiving via an intermediary, followed by third-party forwarding and the sending of sexual content. The relative importance of each analysed variable depended on the specific sexting behaviour and the participants’ gender. The results highlight the need to disentangle the diversity behind sexting behaviours and to address each one in an educational setting. This more detailed look at the different behaviours can be used as the basis for raising awareness and decision-making in education.