Sexting is the sharing of sexually explicit images, videos, and/or messages via electronic devices. Prevalence estimates of sexting have varied substantially, potentially due to broad age ranges being examined. The current study sought to synthesize relevant findings examining the prevalence of consensual and non-consensual sexting in a specific developmental period, emerging adulthood (≥ 18–< 29), to try to explain discrepancies in the literature. Searches were conducted in electronic databases for articles published up to April 2018. Relevant data from 50 studies with 18,122 emerging adults were extracted. The prevalence of sexting behaviors were: sending 38.3% (k = 41; CI 32.0–44.6), receiving 41.5% (k = 19; CI 31.9–51.2), and reciprocal sexting 47.7% (k = 16; CI 37.6–57.8). Thus, sexting is a common behavior among emerging adults. The prevalence of non-consensual forwarding of sexts was also frequent in emerging adults at 15.0% (k = 7; CI 6.9–23.2). Educational awareness initiatives on digital citizenship and psychological consequences of the non-consensual forwarding of sexts should be targeted to youth and emerging adults with the hopes of mitigating this potentially damaging and illegal behavior.
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Dr. Madigan is Canada Research Chair in Determinants of Child Development. Cheri Nickel, MLIS, conducted the literature search. David Sidhu, M.Sc., assisted with the creation of forest plots. Both are affiliated with the University of Calgary.
Conflict of interest
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|Database: PsycINFO < 1806 to April 2018>|
|1 ((cyber or Internet or online) adj6 pornograph*).mp.|
|2 (sex* adj6 explicit* adj6 (media or image*)).mp.|
|3 (sext or sexting).mp.|
|4 (nude adj4 (photo or photos or photograph* or picture*)).mp.|
|5 (cell adj4 phone* adj8 (photo or photos or photograph* or picture*)).mp.|
|6 (suggestive adj (image* or photo or photos or photograph* or picture*)).mp.|
|8 1 or 2 or 3 or 4 or 5 or 6 or 7|
|9 limit 8 to (100 childhood < birth to age 12 yrs > or 180 school age < age 6 to 12 yrs > or 200 adolescence < age 13 to 17 yrs > or 320 young adulthood < age 18 to 29 yrs >)|
|10 (teen* or adolescen* or youth* or child* or girl* or boy* or “young people” or “high school*” or student*).mp.|
|11 8 and 10|
|12 9 or 11|
|13 limit 12 to yr = ”2000 -Current”|
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Cite this article
Mori, C., Cooke, J.E., Temple, J.R. et al. The Prevalence of Sexting Behaviors Among Emerging Adults: A Meta-Analysis. Arch Sex Behav 49, 1103–1119 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10508-020-01656-4
- Emerging adults