Study uncovers reciprocal relationships between sexting and the online sexual victimization of minors

Scientific research published in the journal Computers in Human Behavior provides new insights into the reciprocal relationships between sexting and the online sexual victimization of minors. The findings highlight the need to educate youth about the responsible use of new communications technologies.

“I have observed again and again that sexting is an increasingly frequent phenomenon among minors. However, sexual education about online sexuality and the possible risks was still scarce. I realized that more research efforts were necessary to face this new online social challenge,” said study author Manuel Gámez Guadix of the Autonomous University of Madrid.

For their study, the researchers surveyed 1,497 Spanish children between the ages of 12 and 14. The participants were surveyed again one year later.

Only 7.6% of the children reported voluntarily engaging in sexting at the start of the study. One year later, that percentage rose to 17.5%.

Sexting predicted receiving sexual solicitations from an adult. The reverse was also true: receiving sexual solicitations was associated with participation in sexting at the follow-up.

Sexting was also found to increase the probability of being a victim of cyberbullying, and being a victim of cyberbullying predicted participation in sexting one year later.

“Sexting among minors increases the likelihood of being a victim online, including experiences of cyberbullying and sexual solicitations by adults,” Guadix told PsyPost.

“Sexting in the 21st century is a sexual behavior like any other. Some of the problems that we deal with face-to-face have now been transferred to the online context. This is the case of risky sexual behavior among young people. This is old wine in a new bottle”.

“However, it is also true that information and communication technologies (ICTs) have some particular characteristics, such as immediacy, the online disinhibition effect, and the possibility of contacting anyone at any time and from anywhere in the world. Undoubtedly, these circumstances require us to be very alert to protect minors from risks,” Guadix explained.

The researchers believe it is crucial to develop new strategies to better educate minors. “Future studies should develop and implement prevention programs in schools to examine how to reduce online risk,” Guadix said.

“It is important to give tools to minors, parents and educators to prevent online risks. Giving information, educating and promoting responsible use are the basic pillars on which research and practice must advance in the coming years.”

The study, “Longitudinal and reciprocal relationships between sexting, online sexual solicitations, and cyberbullying among minors“, was authored by Manuel Gámez-Guadix and Estibaliz Mateos-Pérez.