Peer pressure drives 'sexting'

Sept. 30, 2011 at 9:34 PM
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CANBERRA, Australia, Sept. 30 (UPI) -- Teens say the highly sexualized media culture bombards them with sexualized images and creates pressure to engage in sexting, researchers in Australia say.

Shelley Walker of the Primary Care Research Unit at the University of Melbourne said the study not only highlighted the pressure young people experienced to engage in sexting, it also revealed the importance of their voice in understanding and developing responses to prevent and deal with the problem.

The study involved individual interviews with 33 young people -- 15 male and 18 female -- ages 15-20, who discussed the pressure boys place on each other to have girls' photos on their phones and computers, Walker said.

The boys said those who refrained from engaging in the activity were labeled gay or could be ostracized from the peer group -- but both genders talked about the pressure girls experienced from boyfriends or strangers to reciprocate on exchanging sexual images, Walker added.

Both young men and women talked about being sent or shown images or videos, sometimes of people they knew or of pornography, without having agreed first to look at, Walker said.

Ninety percent of youth in Australia have cellphones, the Australian Communication & Media Authority said.

"Our study reveals how complex and ever-changing the phenomenon of sexting is and that continued meaningful dialogue is needed to address and prevent the negative consequences of sexting for young people," Walker said.

The findings were presented at the Australasian Sexual Health Conference in Canberra.

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