Predictors of mobile sexting among teens: Toward a new explanatory framework

From Mobile Media & Communication

Sexting, or the digital exchange of sexually explicit images, has garnered a great deal of concern among parents, teachers, school administrators, and the criminal justice system. The media have brought visibility to adolescent sexting with stories depicting young teens cuffed and charged after a sext they distributed went viral. In the US, it is illegal for anyone to produce, possess, or distribute nude or sexual images of individuals under 18.

The aim of this study was to generate and test hypotheses supporting emancipation as a framework for considering adolescent sexting.  This study analyzed survey data collected for the “Teens and Mobile Phones” study by the Pew Internet and American Life project. Results are derived from a telephone-based survey of 800 teens and one of their parents/guardian, conducted in the US. The findings help shed new light on a number of variables that function in predicting adolescent sexting, providing support for conceptualizing it as social practice rather than pornography and also helping to pave the way for future research on sexting and developing emancipation into a framework for generating testable hypotheses.



This study posits a framework for conceptualizing the practice of adolescent sexting in order to help explain this behavior and inform decisions about whether and how to address it. Select theoretical propositions about the role of mobile communication in the “social emancipation” of youth were explicated and tested using a national survey of teens in the US. Drawing from this perspective, we hypothesized that sexting would be associated with levels of peer and family mobile connectivity, although in opposite ways, as well as parental control over the technology. As hypothesized, involvement in sexting was positively predicted by connectedness to peers through mobile communication and negatively predicted by connectedness to family. Although sexting was less likely with mobile connectedness to family, heavy-handed parental control over the technology was not a predictor. The discussion offers theoretical and practical implications of these and other findings, along with directions for future research.

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Article details

Scott W. Campbell and Yong Jin Park
Predictors of mobile sexting among teens: Toward a new explanatory framework
Mobile Media & Communication
January 2014 2: 20-39, doi:10.1177/2050157913502645



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