Demystifying sexting: Adolescent sexting and its associations with parenting styles and sense of parental social control in Israel


Source: Cyberpsychology: Journal of Psychosocial Research on Cyberspace, 14(1), Article 6 


The present study examined sexting habits (sending text messages, as well as nude or semi-nude photos, and/or requesting the same from others) among adolescents, as reported by 458 students (101 boys, 357 girls), with the aim of investigating whether and how sexting correlates with parenting styles and manifestations of parental social control. An online link was published on social media, asking participants who meet the research criteria to complete several questionnaires.

About 30% of the participants reported sending sexual messages, and almost 32% reported that others, mainly strangers, asked them to send nude or semi-nude photos. Furthermore, sexting was more common among high-school students than among middle-school students, and asking another person to send nude or semi-nude photos was more common among boys than among girls. Lower parental social control was related to increased likelihood of sexting, and higher perception of permissive parenting style was associated with asking someone else to send nude or semi-nude photos. These findings shed light on sexting among adolescents in Israel. Moreover, the findings show that adolescents do not report sexting either to parents or to other significant adults in their lives, such as teachers or other educational staff at school. The article concludes with implications for educators and educational counselors in view of these findings.


The present study focused on examining the sexting behaviors among teenage girls and boys in relation to several factors. The importance of this study lies in the suggestion that sexting may be a modern age phenomenon that is yet another manifestation of adolescent sexual interest and development. In the presence of suitable control, sexting may be deemed a socially appropriate behavior that allows adolescents to express their budding sexuality. Nevertheless, sexting may put young adolescents at risk, due to violations of privacy, thus leading to negative consequences. Hence, sexting needs to be mediated by nonjudgmental communication, which underscores the importance of active parental involvement and direct communication, or communication through the mediation of school counselors. The perception of this behavior as a social phenomenon rather than as a pornographic pastime might help educate young people to think about how to communicate appropriately and how to regulate their activities, pleasures, and emotions, while remaining alert to the potential dangers of online media. Currently, educational campaigns that address the risks of sexting use scare tactics, stressing the risks of bullying, criminal prosecution, female victimization, and blame. In this day and age, however, this may not be the educational approach needed, and we should consider changing the terminology from “risky” to "healthy". School counselors involved in sex education within the school curriculum must learn to understand that adolescents’ learning space includes various media interactions with friends, parents, and educators, as well as with more distanced circles, the latter involving people who--at best—the students know of indirectly, or--at worst—others who are complete strangers. All of these contacts play a role in the knowledge adolescents acquire about sexuality and relationships, whether they interact with them at school, at home, at parties, at the mall, in physical and online encounters with friends, or wherever they may be.

Updated: Apr. 30, 2020