This research analyzes the prevalence of sexting and socio-demographic correlates in a sample of 647 adolescents administered a questionnaire at secondary schools in Valencia (Spain).
The questionnaire results indicate that 61% of respondents reported being involved in at least one case of sexting, with 24, 58, and 18% reporting having sent a sext, received a sext, and forwarded a sext, respectively.
More males and older adolescents reported having received and forwarded sexts than female and younger adolescents.
Furthermore, time spent using Information and Communications Technology (ICT) devices, use and frequency of use of social media, grade repetition, low academic performance expectations in Math, and a single-parent family situation appear to correlate with an increase in the prevalence of sexting experiences.
Our study also provides results that can support new lines of inquiry into analyzing the relationship between sexting and certain socio-demographic, family situation, and educational variables in relation to adolescents.
This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Price includes VAT for USA
Subscribe to journal
Immediate online access to all issues from 2019. Subscription will auto renew annually.
This is the net price. Taxes to be calculated in checkout.
Wood et al. (2015) reported a greater likelihood of sending sexual images with increased age in all countries where they carried out their study and in both sexes. The only exception being in the country of Cyprus.
West et al. (2014) found that, in males, one of the factors associated with an increased likelihood of sexting was the excessive sending of text messages.
Albury, K., & Crawford, K. (2012). Sexting, consent and young people's ethics: Beyond Megan’s story. Journal of Media & Cultural Studies, 26, 463–473. https://doi.org/10.1080/10304312.2012.665840.
Barrense-Dias, Y., Berchtold, A., Suris, J. C., & Akre, C. (2017). Sexting and the definition issue. Journal of Adolescent Health, 61(5), 544–554. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jadohealth.2017.05.009.
Bauermeister, J., Yeagley, E., Meanley, S., & Pingel, E. (2014). Sexting among young men who have sex with men: Results from a national survey. Journal of Adolescent Health, 54(5), 606–611. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jadohealth.2013.10.013.
Baumgartner, S., Sumter, S. R., Peter, J., & Valkenburg, P. (2012). Identifying teens at risk: Developmental pathways of online and offline sexual risk behavior. Pediatrics, 130(6), e1489–e1496. https://doi.org/10.1542/peds.2012-0842.
Baumgartner, S. E., Sumter, S. R., Peter, J., Valkenburg, P. M., & Livingstone, S. (2014). Does country context matter? Investigating the predictors of teen sexting across Europe. Computers in Human Behavior, 34, 157–164. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chb.2014.01.041.
Benotsch, E. G., Snipes, D. J., Martin, A. M., & Bull, S. S. (2013). Sexting, substance use, and sexual risk behaviour in young adults. Journal of Adolescent Health, 52(3), 307–313. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jadohealth.2012.06.011.
Bianchi, D., Morelli, M., Baiocco, R., & Chirumbolo, A. (2017). Sexting as the mirror on the wall: Body-esteem attribution, media models, and objectified-body consciousness. Journal of Adolescence, 61, 164–172. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.adolescence.2017.10.006.
Bianchi, D., Morelli, M., Baiocco, R., & Chirumbolo, A. (2019). Individual differences and developmental trends in sexting motivations. Current Psychology, 1–10. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12144-019-00398-4.
Branch, K., Hilinski-Rosick, C., Johnson, E., & Solano, G. (2017). Revenge porn victimization of college students in the United States: An exploratory analysis. International Journal of Cyber Criminology, 11(1), 128–142. https://doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.495777.
Burén, J., & Lunde, C. (2018). Sexting among adolescents: A nuanced and gendered online challenge for young people. Computers in Human Behavior, 85, 210–217. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chb.2018.02.003.
Burkett, M. (2015). Sex(t) talk: A qualitative analysis of young adults’ negotiations of the pleasures and perils of sexting. Sexuality and Culture, 19(4), 835–863. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12119-015-9295-0.
Campbell, S. W., & Park, Y. J. (2014). Predictors of mobile sexting among teens: Toward a new explanatory framework. Mobile Media & Communication, 2(1), 20–39. https://doi.org/10.1177/2050157913502645.
Chalfen, R. (2009). It’s only a picture: Sexting, ‘smutty’ snapshots, and felony charges. Visual Studies, 24(3), 258–268. https://doi.org/10.1080/14725860903309203.
Chaudhary, P., Peskin, M., Temple, J. R., Addy, R. C., Baumler, E., & Shegog, R. (2017). Sexting and mental health: A school based longitudinal study among youth in Texas. Journal of Applied Research on Children: Informing Policy for Children at Risk, 8(1), 1–27.
Choi, H., Van Ouytsel, J., & Temple, J. R. (2016). Association between sexting and sexual coercion among female adolescents. Journal of Adolescence, 53, 164–168. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.adolescence.2016.10.005.
Cooper, K., Quayle, E., Jonsson, L., & Svedin, C. G. (2016). Adolescents and self-taken sexual images: A review of the literature. Computers in Human Behavior, 55, 706–716. https://doi.org/10.1016/.j.chb.2015.10.003.
Cox Communications. (2009). Teen online and wireless safety survey: Cyberbullying, sexting, and parental controls. Available at: http://www.scribd.com/doc/20023365/2009-Cox-Teen-Online-Wireless-Safety-Survey-Cyberbullying-Sexting-and-Parental-Controls
Crimmins, D. M., & Seigfried-Spellar, K. C. (2014). Peer attachment, sexual experiences, and risky online behaviors as predictors of sexting behaviors among undergraduate students. Computers in Human Behavior, 32, 268–275. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chb.2013.12.012.
Dake, J. A., Price, D. H., Mazriaz, L., & Ward, B. (2012). Prevalence and correlates of sexting behaviour in adolescents. American Journal of Sexuality Education, 7(1), 1–15. https://doi.org/10.1080/15546128.2012.650959.
Davis, M. J., Powell, A., Gordon, D., & Kershaw, T. (2016). I want your sext: Sexting and sexual risk in emerging adult minority men. AIDS Education and Prevention, 28(2), 138–152. https://doi.org/10.1521/aeap.2016.28.2.138.
Delevi, R., & Weisskirch, R. S. (2013). Personality factors as predictors of sexting. Computers in Human Behavior, 29(6), 2589–2594. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chb.2013.06.003.
Döring, N. (2014). Consensual sexting among adolescents: Risk prevention through abstinence education or safer sexting? Cyberpsychology: Journal of Psychosocial Research on Cyberspace, 8(1), article 9. https://doi.org/10.5817/CP2014-1-9.
Drouin, M., Coupe, M., & Temple, J. R. (2017). Is sexting good for your relationship? It depends…. Computers in Human Behavior, 75, 749–756. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chb.2017.06.018.
Drouin, M., Ross, J., & Tobin, E. (2015). Sexting: A new, digital vehicle for intimate partner aggression? Computers in Human Behavior, 50, 197–204. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chb.2015.04.001.
Drouin, M., & Tobin, E. (2014). Unwanted but consensual sexting among young adults: Relations with attachment and sexual motivations. Computers in Human Behavior, 31, 412–418. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chb.2013.11.001.
Englander, E. (2015). Coerced sexting and revenge porn among teens. Bullying, Teen Aggression & Social Media, 1, 19–21.
Gámez-Guadix, M., de Santisteban, P., & Resett, S. (2017). Sexting among Spanish adolescents: Prevalence and personality profiles. Psicothema, 29(1), 29–34. https://doi.org/10.7334/psicothema2016.222.
Gámez-Guadix, M., & Mateos-Pérez, E. (2019). Longitudinal and reciprocal relationships between sexting, online sexual solicitations, and cyberbullying among minors. Computers in Human Behavior, 94, 70–76. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chb.2019.01.004.
Gámez-Guadix, M., & Santisteban, P. (2018). “Sex Pics?”: Longitudinal predictors of sexting among adolescents. Journal of Adolescent Health, 63, 608–614. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jadohealth.2018.05.032.
Gassó, A., Klettke, B., Agustina, J., & Montiel, I. (2019). Sexting, mental health, and victimization among adolescents: A literature review. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 16(13), 2364. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph16132364.
Gordon-Messer, D., Bauermeister, J. A., Grodzinski, A., & Zimmerman, M. (2013). Sexting among young adults. Journal of Adolescent Health, 52(3), 301–306. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jadohealth.2012.05.013.
Gregg, D., Somers, C. L., Pernice, F. M., Hillman, S. B., & Kernsmith, P. (2018). Sexting rates and predictors from an urban midwest high school. Journal of School Health, 88(6), 423–433. https://doi.org/10.1111/josh.12628.
Hair, J. F., Black, B., Babin, B., & Anderson, R. E. (2010). Multivariate data analysis (7th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson.
Hinduja, S. & Patchin, J.W. (2010). Sexting: A brief guide for educators and parents. Cyberbullying research center. Available at: www.cyberbullying.us/Sexting_Fact_Sheet.pdf
Houck, C. D., Barker, D., Rizzo, C., Hancock, E., Norton, A., & Brown, L. K. (2014). Sexting and sexual behavior in at-risk adolescents. Pediatrics, 133(2), 276–282. https://doi.org/10.1542/peds.2013-1157.
Hudson, H. K., & Fetro, J. V. (2015). Sextual activity: Predictors of sexting behaviors and intentions to sext among selected undergraduate students. Computers in Human Behavior, 49, 615–622. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chb.2015.03.048.
Hudson, H. K., & Marshall, S. A. (2016). Sexty southerners: Sexting content and behaviors among southern undergraduates. The Health Educator, 48(1), 34–43.
Kernsmith, P. D., Victor, B. G., & Smith-Darden, J. P. (2018). Online, offline, and over the line: Coercive sexting among adolescent dating partners. Youth & Society, 50(7), 891–904. https://doi.org/10.1177/0044118X18764040.
Khubchandani, J., Telljohann, S. K., Price, J. H., Dake, J. A., & Hendershot, C. (2013). Providing assistance to the victims of adolescent dating violence: A national assessment of school nurses' practices. Journal of School Health, 83(2), 127–136. https://doi.org/10.1111/josh.12008.
Klettke, B., Hallford, D. J., & Mellor, D. J. (2014). Sexting prevalence and correlates: A systematic literature review. Clinical Psychology Review, 34(1), 44–53. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cpr.2013.10.007.
Lenhart, A. (2009). Teens and sexting: How and why minor teens are sending sexually suggestive nude or nearly nude images via text messages. Washington, DC: Pew Internet & American Life Project. Available at: http://www.pewinternet.org/files/old-media/Files/Reports/2009/PIP_Teens_and_Sexting.pdf.
Lim, M. S., Vella, A. M., Horyniak, D. R., & Hellard, M. E. (2016). Exploring attitudes towards sexting of young people: A cross-sectional study. Sexual Health, 13(6), 530–535. https://doi.org/10.1071/SH16029.
Lippman, J. R., & Campbell, S. W. (2014). Damned if you do, damned if you don’t…if you’re a girl: Relational and normative contexts of adolescent sexting in the United States. Journal of Children and Media, 8(4), 371–386. https://doi.org/10.1080/17482798.2014.923009.
Little, R. J., & Rubin, D. (2002). Statistical analysis with missing data (2nd ed.). New York: Wiley.
Livingstone, S., & Görzig, A. (2012). Sexting. In S. Livingstone, L. Haddon, & A. Görzig (Eds.), Children, risk and safety on the internet: Research and policy challenges in comparative perspective (pp. 151–164). Bristol: The Policy Press.
Lloria, P. (2013). Delitos y redes sociales: los nuevos atentados a la intimidad, el honor y la integridad moral. Especial referencia al «sexting». Wolters Kluwer Revistas, 1–12.
Madigan, S., Ly, A., Rash, C. L., Van Ouytsel, J., & Temple, J. R. (2018). Prevalence of multiple forms of sexting behavior among youth: A systematic review and meta-analysis. JAMA Pediatrics, 172(4), 327–335. https://doi.org/10.1001/jamapediatrics.2017.5314.
Martínez-Prather, K., & Vandiver, D. M. (2014). Sexting among teenagers in the United States: A retrospective analysis of identifying motivating factors, potential targets, and the role of a capable guardian. International Journal of Cyber Criminology, 8(1), 21–35.
Mitchell, K. J., Finkelhor, D., Jones, L. M., & Wolak, J. (2012). Prevalence and characteristics of youth sexting: A national study. Pediatrics, 129(1), 13–20. https://doi.org/10.1542/peds.2011-1730.
Morelli, M., Bianchi, D., Baiocco, R., Pezzuti, L., & Chirumbolo, A. (2016a). Not-allowed sharing of sexts and dating violence from the perpetrator’s perspective: The moderation role of sexism. Computers in Human Behavior, 56, 163–169. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chb.2015.11.047.
Morelli, M., Bianchi, D., Baiocco, R., Pezzuti, L., & Chirumbolo, A. (2016b). Sexting, psychological distress and dating violence among adolescents and young adults. Psicothema, 28(2), 137–142. https://doi.org/10.7334/psicothema2015.193.
Olatunde, O., & Balogun, F. (2017). Sexting: Prevalence, predictors, and associated sexual risk behaviours among postsecondary school young people in Ibadan, Nigeria. Frontiers in Public Health, 5(96), 1–8. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpubh.2017.00096.
Parker, T. S., Blackburn, K. M., Perry, M. S., & Hawks, J. M. (2013). Sexting as an intervention: Relationship satisfaction and motivation considerations. The American Journal of Family Therapy, 41(1), 1–12. https://doi.org/10.1080/01926187.2011.635134.
Patrick, K., Heywood, W., Pitts, M., & Mitchell, A. (2015). Demographic and behavioural correlates of six sexting behaviours among Australian secondary school students. Sexual Health, 12, 480–487. https://doi.org/10.1071/SH15004.
Perkins, A. B., Becker, J. V., Tehee, M., & Mackelprang, E. (2014). Sexting behaviors among college students: Cause for concern? International Journal of Sexual Health, 26(2), 79–92. https://doi.org/10.1080/19317611.2013.841792.
Reyns, B. W., Henson, B., & Fisher, B. S. (2014). Digital deviance: Low self-control and opportunity as explanations of sexting among college students. Sociological Spectrum, 34, 273–292. https://doi.org/10.1080/02732173.2014.895642.
Rice, E., Craddock, J., Hemler, M., Rusow, J., Plant, A., Montoya, J., & Kordic, T. (2018). Associations between sexting behaviors and sexual behaviors among mobile phone-owning teens in Los Angeles. Child Development, 89(1), 110–117. https://doi.org/10.1111/cdev.12837.
Rice, E., Gibbs, J., Winetrobe, H., Rhoades, H., Plant, A., Montoya, J., & Kordic, T. (2014). Sexting and sexual behaviour among middle school student in Los Angeles. Pediatrics, 134(1), 21–28. https://doi.org/10.1542/peds.2013-2991.
Rice, E., Rhoades, H., Winetrobe, H., Sanchez, M., Montoya, J., Plant, A., & Kordic, T. (2012). Sexually explicit cell phone messaging associated with sexual risk among adolescents. Pediatrics, 130(4), 667–673. https://doi.org/10.1542/peds.2012-0021.
Ricketts, M. L., Maloney, C., Marcum, C. D., & Higgins, G. E. (2015). The effect of Internet related problems on the sexting behaviors of juveniles. American Journal of Criminal Justice, 40(2), 270–284. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12103-014-9247-5.
Stanley, N., Barter, C., Wood, M., Aghtaie, N., Larkins, C., Lanau, A., & Overlien, C. (2018). Pornography, sexual coercion and abuse and sexting in young people’s intimate relationships: A European study. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 33(19), 2919–2944. https://doi.org/10.1177/0886260516633204.
Strassberg, D., McKinnon, R., Sustaíta, M., & Rullo, J. (2013). Sexting by high school students: An exploratory and descriptive study. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 42(1), 15–21. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10508-012-9969-8.
Strassberg, D. S., Cann, D., & Velarde, V. (2017). Sexting by high school students. Archives of Sexual Behaviour, 46(6), 1667–1672. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10508-016-0926-9.
Temple, J. R., Paul, J. A., van den Berg, P., Le, V. D., McElhany, A., & Temple, B. W. (2012). Teen sexting and its associations with sexual behaviours. Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, 166(9), 828–833. https://doi.org/10.1001/archpediatrics.2012.835.
The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy (2008). Sex and tech: Results from a survey of teens and young adults. Available at: https://thenationalcampaign.org/sites/default/files/resource-primary-download/sex_and_tech_summary.pdf.
Van Ouytsel, J., Lu, Y., Ponnet, K., Walrave, M., & Temple, J. R. (2019). Longitudinal associations between sexting, cyberbullying, and bullying among adolescents: Cross-lagged panel analysis. Journal of Adolescence, 73, 36–41. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.adolescence.2019.03.008.
Van Ouytsel, J., Ponnet, K., & Walrave, M. (2018). Cyber dating abuse victimization among secondary school students from a lifestyle-routine activities theory perspective. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 33(7), 2767–2776. https://doi.org/10.1177/0886260516629390.
Van Ouytsel, J., Ponnet, K., Walrave, M., & d’Haenens, L. (2017). Adolescent sexting from a social learning perspective. Telematics and Informatics, 34, 287–298. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tele.2016.05.009.
Van Ouytsel, J., Van Gool, E., Ponnet, K., & Walrave, M. (2014). Brief report: The association between adolescents’ characteristics and engagement in sexting. Journal of Adolescence, 37(8), 1387–1391. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.adolescence.2014.10.004.
Van Ouytsel, J., Walrave, M., & Van Gool, E. (2014). Sexting: Between thrill and fear—How schools can respond. The Clearing House: A Journal of Educational Strategies, Issues and Ideas, 87, 204–212.
Vanden Abeele, M., Campbell, S. W., Eggermont, S., & Roe, K. (2014). Sexting, mobile porn use, and peer group dynamics: Boys’ and girls’ self-perceived popularity, need for popularity, and perceived peer pressure. Media Psychology, 17(1), 6–33. https://doi.org/10.1080/15213269.2013.801725.
Villacampa, C. (2017). Teen sexting: Prevalence, characteristics and legal treatment. International Journal of Law, Crime and Justice, 49, 10–21. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijlcj.2017.01.002.
Walker, J. T., & Moak, S. (2010). Child’s play or child pornography: The need for better laws regarding sexting. Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences Today, 35(1), 1–9. https://doi.org/10.1089/cyber.2018.0291.
West, J. H., Lister, C. E., Hall, P. C., Crookston, B. T., Snow, P. R., Zvietcovich, M. E., & West, R. P. (2014). Sexting among Peruvian adolescents. BMC Public Health, 14, 1–7. https://doi.org/10.1186/1471-2458-14-811.
Wolak, J., Finkelhor, D., Walsh, W., & Treitman, L. (2018). Sextortion of minors: Characteristics and dynamics. Journal of Adolescent Health, 62(1), 72–79. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jadohealth.2017.08.014.
Wood, M., Barter, C., Stanley, N., Aghtaie, N., & Larkins, C. (2015). Images across Europe: The sending and receiving of sexual images and associations with interpersonal violence in young people’s relationships. Children and Youth Services Review, 59, 149–160. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.childyouth.2015.11.005.
Woodward, V. H., Evans, M., & Brooks, M. (2017). Social and psychological factors of rural youth sexting: An examination of gender-specific models. Deviant Behavior, 38(4), 461–476. https://doi.org/10.1080/01639625.2016.1197020.
Ybarra, M. L., & Mitchell, K. J. (2014). “Sexting” and its relation to sexual activity and sexual risk behavior in a national survey of adolescents. Journal of Adolescent Health, 55(6), 757–764. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jadohealth.2014.07.012.
Yeung, T. H., Horyniak, D. R., Vella, A. M., Hellard, M. E., & Lim, M. S. C. (2014). Prevalence, correlates and attitudes towards sexting among young people in Melbourne, Australia. Sexual Health, 11(4), 332–339. https://doi.org/10.1071/SH14032.
We are grateful to the young people who participated in our research, as well as to the schools that allowed us to administer our questionnaire.
This work was supported by funding from the Government of the Valencian Community (predoctoral grant DOGV No. 7943, ACIF, 2017) and from the Spanish Ministry of Science, Innovation and Universities (PGC2018-100675-B-I00). Funders had no role in the study design, data collection or analysis, the decision to publish, or the preparation of the manuscript.
Conflict of Interest
The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
The authors received due ethical approval for all research conducted in this study.
The datasets generated and analyzed in this study are not publicly available, but are available from the corresponding author on reasonable request.
Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.
Electronic Supplementary Material
About this article
Cite this article
Molla-Esparza, C., López-González, E. & Losilla, J. Sexting Prevalence and Socio-Demographic Correlates in Spanish Secondary School Students. Sex Res Soc Policy (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s13178-020-00434-0
- Sexting prevalence