Field of 'sexting' research finds little to worry about

May 22, 2017 by Matt Shipman, North Carolina State University
Credit: CC0 Public Domain

A recent analysis of research into how so-called "sexting" may affect sexual behavior finds that it has little impact on sexual activity – but highlights significant shortcomings in the research itself.

"There's a lot of work being done on the phenomenon of sexting and how it may influence , but the work is being done in a wide variety of populations by researchers from many different backgrounds," says Kami Kosenko, an associate professor of communication at North Carolina State University and lead author of a paper on the meta-analysis. "We wanted to analyze this broad body of work to see what, if anything, can be gleaned from all of these studies."

The researchers found 234 journal articles that looked at sexting, but then removed studies that didn't look at the relationship between sexting and behavior, as well as any studies that didn't include clearly defined quantitative measures of sexting or sexual behavior.

Ultimately, this process winnowed it down to 15 studies that looked at whether there was any link between sexting and: ; unprotected sex; and/or the number of sex partners one has.

The researchers found that there was a weak statistical relationship between sexting and all of those categories – and that was when looking solely at correlation. It was impossible to tell if sexting actually influenced at all.

In fact, there's not even an agreed-upon definition for sexting. Does sexting consist only of sexually-oriented text messages? Does it include photos? Video? Definitions varied widely from paper to paper.

"There are two take-home messages here," says Andrew Binder, co-author of the review and an associate professor of communication at NC State. "First is that sexting does not appear to pose a to America's youth – so don't panic. Second, if this is something we want to study, we need to design better studies. For example, the field needs a common, clear definition of what we mean by , as well as more robust survey questions and methods."

The paper, "Sexting and Sexual Behavior, 2011-2015: A Critical Review and Meta-Analysis of a Growing Literature," is published in the Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication. The was co-authored by Geoffrey Luurs, a Ph.D. student at NC State.

Explore further: Over 80 percent of survey respondents report sexting within the past year

More information: Kami Kosenko et al, Sexting and Sexual Behavior, 2011-2015: A Critical Review and Meta-Analysis of a Growing Literature, Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication (2017). DOI: 10.1111/jcc4.12187

Related Stories

Over 80 percent of survey respondents report sexting within the past year

August 8, 2015
The practice of sexting may be more common than generally thought among adults. More than eight out of 10 people surveyed online admitted to sexting in the prior year, according to research presented at the American Psychological ...

Sexting leads to increased sexual behavior among teens

October 6, 2014
Researchers at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston say that sexting may be the new "normal" part of adolescent sexual development and is not strictly limited to at-risk teens. The findings, published in the ...

'Sexting' may be just a normal part of dating for Internet generation

July 24, 2012
(Medical Xpress) -- For young adults today who were weaned on iPods and the Internet, the practice of "sexting," or sending sexually explicit photos or messages through phones, may be just another normal, healthy component ...

Sexting and pornography or music video viewing among adolescents: Is there a link?

December 3, 2014
Are adolescents who view pornography or music videos more likely to engage in sexting, in which they share sexually explicit content via text, photo, or video using cell phones, email, or social networking sites? A study ...

Recommended for you

Simple leg exercises could reduce impact of sedentary lifestyle on heart and blood vessels

August 21, 2018
A sedentary lifestyle can cause an impairment of the transport of blood around the body, which increases the risk of disease in the heart and blood vessels. New research published in Experimental Physiology suggests that ...

Sitting for long hours found to reduce blood flow to the brain

August 20, 2018
A team of researchers with Liverpool John Moores University in the U.K. has found evidence of reduced blood flow to the brain in people who sit for long periods of time. In their paper published in the Journal of Applied ...

Your office may be affecting your health

August 20, 2018
Workers in open office seating had less daytime stress and greater daytime activity levels compared to workers in private offices and cubicles, according to new research led by the University of Arizona.

Healthy diet linked to healthy cellular aging in women

August 20, 2018
Eating a diet that is rich in fruits, vegetables and whole grains and low in added sugar, sodium and processed meats could help promote healthy cellular aging in women, according to a new study published in the American Journal ...

Balanced advice needed to address 'screen time' for children, study shows

August 20, 2018
Parents, health professionals and educators need clear and balanced information to help manage young children's use of mobile touch-screen devices in Australia, new research by Curtin University has found.

Students more likely to eat school breakfast when given extra time, new study finds

August 18, 2018
Primary school students are more likely to eat a nutritional breakfast when given 10 extra minutes to do so, according to a new study by researchers at Virginia Tech and Georgia Southern University.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.