According to a study by Drexel University, more than 50 percent of students surveyed at an unnamed northeastern university have exchanged sexts as minors.
Additionally, 60 percent of the respondents were unaware of the legal ramifications of underage sexting including child pornography.
Two Drexel students, along with David DeMatteo, an associate professor of psychology and law, conducted the study in the article, “Youth Sexting: Prevalence Rates, Driving Motivations, and the Deterrent Effect of Legal Consequences.” The research was published online this month in Sexuality Research and Social Policy, an academic journal.
The students, Megan Murphy and Heidi Strohmaier, were interested in whether sexting had social, legal and psychological implications and approached DeMatteo about conducting a study.
“There has not been a lot of research on sexting and that’s one of the reasons that my students and I decided to undertake this study,” DeMatteo said. “But the reality is that there is not very much good scientific research on the topic.”
The three researchers then designed a study to answer some basic questions about sexting that have not been answered before in literature. Questions ranged from the age of when participants sent their first sext, the frequency of when they sexted, types of sexts (with or without pornographic photos) and participants’ awareness of the legal consequences.
The researchers themselves were surprised by the results.
“We had no reason to believe that over 50 percent of our respondents would admit to having sent a sext while they were underage,” DeMatteo said. “All three of us were just flat out shocked.”
DeMatteo said it is difficult to tell if this is a trend but the “figures that we got are significantly higher in terms of the prevalence of sexting in previous studies.”