Pressured Sexting and Revenge Porn in a Sample of Massachusetts Adolescents

Pressured Sexting and Revenge Porn in a Sample of Massachusetts Adolescents

Elizabeth Kandel Englander (Massachusetts Aggression Reduction Center, Bridgewater State University, Bridgewater, MA, USA) and Meghan McCoy (Massachusetts Aggression Reduction Center, Bridgewater State University, Bridgewater, MA, USA)
Copyright: © 2017 |Pages: 10
DOI: 10.4018/IJT.2017070102
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Abstract

Digital communications are largely used for positive interactions but can also be a vehicle for harassment. Previous research has made is clear that sexting occurs, at times, because of peer pressure. This study examined pressured sexting and the unauthorized release of images in a cross-sectional sample studied in 2013-15. The convenience sample examined 1,320 students in Massachusetts. Over the years, more students admitted to sexting, but fewer reported any degree of pressure to sext. More than a third of sexters in 2014 and almost half of sexters in 2015 reported that the picture had been released without their consent. Interestingly, this did not seem to occur primarily within established relationships; instead, it seemed to target most often sexters who declined to date someone. Unauthorized distribution was related to several risk factors, including younger-aged sexters, those who sexted to multiple recipients, and those who were pressured into sexting initially.
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Introduction

Prior to the turn of the century, digital communications (text messaging, social networking, digital pictures, etc.) may have played a secondary role in peer aggression, but in 2016, digital technology has become a primary method of communication between youth. A Pew study released in 2011 found that almost all teens use the Internet, and 78% own a cell phone. Social networking is almost universal: a 2014 study of the same sample reported on here (487 18- and 19-year-olds at the Massachusetts Aggression Reduction Center at Bridgewater State University) found that 97% have a Facebook (social networking) account (Englander, In Progress). Three-quarters of teens “text” (i.e., use text messaging) and the median number of texts per day is sixty. Messaging is also done through Facebook and other social media. Heavy digital use is found among all social classes (Rainie, Lenhart, & Smith, 2011). The ubiquitous use of text messaging does not seem to be a passing fad; rather, it seems to be increasing in popularity. In 2010, 44% of teens studied at the Massachusetts Aggression Reduction Center (MARC) listed text messaging as their most preferred type of communication, but by 2015, that proportion had risen to 62% (Englander, In Progress).

Most researchers have focused on experimental evidence examining the degree of positive and negative interactions used in social media, others have pointed out that ethical perspectives have been considered less often. One study pointed out that youth perceive the Internet as a reciprocal relationship, and that the ethics of the user can be of primary importance in considering whether technology is used for positive or negative purposes (Harrison, 2015). The issue of ethics is related to that of intention. Being sent a nude picture or a picture of people having sex is clearly sexual harassment - unless the recipient requested such images. The ethics of fulfilling a peer’s request are quite different from the ethics of intentional harassment. Pictures of a nude peer may be shared with others, not for the purpose of harassing the recipient but instead to simply share an intensely interesting photo with a friend (Englander, 2012b).

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