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February 26, 2018

Sexting—Prevalence, Age, Sex, and Outcomes

Author Affiliations
  • 1Department of Psychology, Massachusetts Aggression Reduction Center, Bridgewater State University, Bridgewater
  • 2Massachusetts Aggression Reduction Center, Bridgewater State University, Bridgewater
JAMA Pediatr. Published online February 26, 2018. doi:10.1001/jamapediatrics.2017.5682

Sexting, an activity in which an individual uses digital technology to send nude or sexualized photos, videos, and/or text to peers, has demonstrated a unique ability to catalyze adult anxiety when children and adolescents engage in it. Yet there is not a great deal of research examining sexting, its prevalence, its causes, and its repercussions. A 2014 systematic review article by Klettke et al1 found a few dozen studies, many with significant limitations. The article tentatively concluded that sexting appears to be neither universal nor rare and that age appears to be positively correlated with increased involvement in sexting at least through young adulthood. Importantly, prevalence reports were noted to be somewhat inconsistent. For example, estimates of the frequency of sexting ranged from 5% of the population2 to 44% or more.3 Most estimates ranged between 10% and 40% of the population with clustering between 12% and 25%.1 The research on differences by sex was also unclear. The evidence that either males or females sext more frequently was too mixed in 2014 to permit firm conclusions.4-6

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