The prevalence of sexting has increased in recent years and increases as youth age. This is according to “Prevalence of Multiple Forms of Sexting Behavior Among Youth: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis” by Sheri Madigan, which noted that “age-specific information on sexting and its potential consequences should regularly be provided as a component of sex education.”
Sexting was defines as “the sharing of sexually explicit images, videos, or messages through electronic means”.
According to the researchers, “the true public health importance of youth sexting is unclear at present because the field is handicapped by inconsistent information regarding its prevalence.” Currently, the published rate of youth sexting range from 1.3% to 60%, and “the extent to which health care professionals, school personnel, policymakers, and parents should be concerned about this behavior is unknown.”
For the research, electronic searches were made in MEDLINE, PsycINFO, EMBASE, and Web of Science for the period January 1990 to June 2016, yielding 1,147 nonduplicate records. Studies were included if participants were younger than 18 years and the prevalence of sexting explicit images, videos, or messages was reported.
Among 39 included studies, there were 110, 380 participants with a mean age of 15.16 years, and on average, 47.2% were male. There were studies available for sending (n = 34), receiving (n = 20), forwarding without consent (n = 5), and having a sext forwarded without consent (n = 4). The mean prevalences for sending and receiving sexts were 14.8% and 27.4%, respectively.
Analyses also revealed that prevalence increased with age, prevalence increased over time, and there was higher prevalence on mobile devices compared with computers. The prevalence of forwarding a sext without consent was 12.0%, and the prevalence of having a sext forwarded without consent was 8.4%.
According to the researchers: “Our results indicated that consensual sexting is becoming a more common practice among youth, with 14.8% and 27.4% of youth sending and receiving sexts, respectively. Moreover, higher prevalence rates were found in more recent studies, with older youth, and with youth using a mobile device to sext. Troublingly, approximately one in eight youth reports either forwarding or having a sext forwarded without their consent.”
They now recommend that future inquiry be made on the “identification of variables associated with nonconsensual sexting, as well as the evaluation of the effectiveness of educational campaigns and legal policies striving to mitigate nonconsensual sexting in youth.”