Sexting and young people: a qualitative study
AuthorWalker, Shelley Joy
AffiliationMedicine, Dentistry & Health Sciences - General Practice
Document TypeMasters Research thesis
CitationsWalker, S. J. (2012). Sexting and young people: a qualitative study. Masters Research thesis, Medicine, Dentistry & Health Sciences - General Practice, The University of Melbourne.
Access StatusOpen Access
© 2012 Shelley Joy Walker
This study is one of the first Australian studies to describe the phenomenon of sexting from the perspective of young people. ‘Sexting’, which involves the production and distribution of sexually explicit images via information and communication technologies (ICTs) has led to young people being excluded from friendship groups, moving schools, suffering anxiety and depression, and in extreme cases being charged with the production and distribution of child pornography. There is an absence of published studies undertaken in this area, particularly from an Australian perspective and from the point of view of young people themselves. My study addresses this gap by exploring the meaning of sexting in young people’s lives. It focuses in particular on the nature of sexting, the reasons why young people are involved in the behaviour and potential solutions for addressing harmful consequences. A qualitative methodology involving two phases was used. The first phase involved a focus group and individual interviews with twelve key informant professionals to develop a context that would inform the second phase, which involved individual semi-structured interviews with 33 young people aged 15-20 years (female [n=18]; male [n=15]). Young people were sourced via youth health, recreational and educational settings using purposive snowball sampling. Results were thematically analysed using a grounded theory approach. Key informant findings helped frame interviews with young people, and affirmed that young people’s voices needed to be heard. Many of the views of key informants were also reflected in the views of young people. Findings exposed a number of themes, including in particular, the gendered nature of the behavior. Of particular concern is that young women feel pressured by young men, who feel pressured by each other to be involved in the behaviour; young people observed that our sexualised media culture places pressure on young women and men to conform to gendered stereotypes that influence the behavior of sexting. Conversations with young people highlighted complexities of the phenomenon not revealed previously, including that definitions used in prevalence studies need to represent changes in young people’s use of ICTs. Young people’s views on solutions highlight that education about the implications of sexting is not the only answer, especially given young people’s views on the origins of sexting and what is known about young people and risk taking from a developmental perspective. Both young women and men were concerned about the potential harmful outcomes for those involved in the behavior, with recognition that young people should be involved in the design of solutions. Findings present important implications for future prevention approaches.
Keywordssexting sexual health; young people; adolescent; communication technologies; sexualised culture; sexual coercion
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