Teenage Sexting: Sexual Expression Meets Mobile Technology

Teenage Sexting: Sexual Expression Meets Mobile Technology

Lara Karaian (Carleton University, Canada) and Andrew Tompkins (Carleton University, Canada)
Copyright: © 2015 |Pages: 14
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-8239-9.ch118
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Introduction

Due in part to the rise in the popularity and accessibility of smartphone technology in the western world, the practice of teenage sexting has recently emerged as a pressing topic of inquiry. Sexting refers to the practice of digitally producing and sharing nude, semi-nude or sexually explicit self-portraits and text messages using a cell phone or another digital device. Teenager, for the purpose of this article, refers to those between the ages of 13-17 and is used interchangeably with youth, adolescents and minors. While the term ‘sexting’ is popular among the media and adult responders, the term is not typically used by youth themselves (See Karaian, 2012; Ringrose et al, 2012; Albury, 2013; Peskin et al., 2013; Strassberg et al., 2013). Instead, youth tend to refer to such self-produced imagery as ‘nudes’ (Karaian, Forthcoming 2015) or as selfies (Albury, 2013), the latter of which also refers to a host of self-produced imagery, most of which does not involve nudity and sexually explicit content.

While most images are kept private or between two consenting individuals for their own private use (Mitchell, et al., 2012; Englander, 2012), images may at times be shared, with or without the consent of the image’s creator, among mobile phone users. Content may also be shard via email or by postings on social networking sites such as Facebook, Instagram, or Tumblr. The creation and distribution of such imagery is by no means a new phenomenon, nor is it restricted to youthful producers and distributors (Klettke, 2014). Rather, it is a new manifestation of a long-seated practice of self-expression fuelled by technological advances (cell phones with forward-facing cameras), new software (on-the-go mobile applications like Snapchat), and myriad motivating factors. Nevertheless, given the perceived risks and potential ramifications of the practice, it has met with a great deal of international attention, if not enthusiasm, from media sources, parents, pundits, policy makers, medical and legal actors, child protection agencies, and academics. This article highlights key empirical and theoretical research on the prevalence, incentives and effects of this mobile phone behaviour, and the responses to it.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Sexting: Sexting refers to the practice of digitally producing and sharing nude, semi-nude or sexually explicit self-portraits and text messages using a cell phone or another digital device. While most images are kept private or between two consenting individuals for their own private use such images may at times be shared, with or without the consent of the image’s creator, among mobile phone users. Content may also be shard via email or by postings on social networking sites such as Facebook, Instagram, or Tumblr.

Responsibilization: Responsibilization is a technique of neo-liberal governance and crime control. It requires individuals to take precautions to minimize their risk of becoming victims of crime. Failing to manage risks results in the assigning of some degree of responsibility for their victimization.

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