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Front. Psychol. | doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2019.01828

Sexting among adolescents: the emotional impact and influence of the need for popularity

  • 1University of Seville, Spain
  • 2Department of Developmental and Educational Psychology, University of Seville, Spain
  • 3Department of Psychology, University of Córdoba, Spain

Sexting refers to the exchange of sexual content material via technological devices. The definitions of this phenomenon vary greatly, mainly, depending on the types of sexting: primary and secondary. Besides the above, there is no common perspective on whether sexting is a risk behavior that entails some type of impact by itself or not and, in such a case, whether this impact varies according to gender. In addition, the need to be popular has shown to be a factor that could increase the probability of being involved in sexting. The present study analyses the potential emotional impact of sexting as well as the effect of the need for popularity on this phenomenon and if it varies according to the gender. The sample comprised 2356 high school students (46.8% female, 53.2% male; age range 11 to 18 years old, M = 13.72; SD = 1.31) belonging to 12 compulsory secondary education (ESO) schools from the South of Spain. To assess sexting implication four questions were presented to participants (sending, receiving, forwarding and receiving sexts via intermediary). Scales, self-report, about emotional impact (depressed, annoyed and active) and need for popularity were also applied. The results obtained show that, although sexting has a clear emotional impact on adolescents, it does not appear to generate a negative impact among those involved, at least in the short-term. Concretely, this phenomenon seems to trigger emotions related to activation in boys and girls (I feel lively, energetic, satisfied, ready, determined, active). Additionally, with respect to the need for popularity, its relevance, specially, in relation to active emotional impact has been confirmed by the analyses. Statistical models found for boys and girls were similar. In addition, some differences in emotional impact by gender were found, girls feeling more depressed and annoyed in secondary sexting, and boys more active regarding both types of sexting.

Keywords: Sexting, Emotional impact, popularity, adolescents, Risk factors

Received: 12 Apr 2019; Accepted: 24 Jul 2019.

Edited by:

Lourdes Rey, University of Málaga, Spain

Reviewed by:

Dora Bianchi, Sapienza University of Rome, Italy
Michelle F. Wright, Pennsylvania State University, United States  

Copyright: © 2019 Del Rey, Ojeda, Casas, Mora-Merchan and Elipe. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

* Correspondence: Mx. Rosario Del Rey, University of Seville, Seville, Spain, delrey@us.es