Statement of purpose Sexting by youth has recently garnered much attention in popular media; and although some prior literature has begun to describe sexting experiences, limited research has been conducted among African American youth.
Methods/approach Participants 14–20 years old were screened at an urban Emergency Department based on home address, as part of a larger intervention study. Participants self-administered a computerised survey consisting of validated measures for dating violence (CADRI), substance use (ASSIST), social support (MSPSS), and mindfulness (CAMM). “Sexting,” defined as using digital media (cell phones, social media, etc.) to “send, receive, and post online sexually suggestive (sexy), nude, or nearly nude pictures or video,” was adapted from 6-measures used in prior literature. Bivariate and Multivariate analyses were conducted predicting “Sexting” behaviour
Results 335 youth were surveyed; 43.3% reported sexting behaviours/experiences in the past 2 months (55% female, 92% African American, 78% public assistance). Males were more likely to report sending (OR = 1.67) and posting sexually suggestive images of themselves (OR = 2.38), and were more likely to report having someone post these images of them online (OR = 2.22). Most reported sending/posting sexts to flirt (56.6%), with females more likely to endorse this behaviour (73.8%). Regression analyses found that physical dating violence (OR = 2.39), substance use (OR = 2.76), and more time on social network sites (OR = 1.09) were predictive of sexting behaviour; while higher mindfulness scores (OR = 0.97) and more social support (OR = 0.98) were protective against sexting involvement.
Conclusions Sexting is common among high-risk youth, and while a youth’s motivation for sexting is often positive, “Sexting” behaviour is also associated with other high-risk behaviours, including dating violence and substance use. Additional research is needed to develop and implement potential interventions.
Significance and contributions This study of sexting experiences is the first, to our knowledge, to be conducted in a non-school-based, predominantly African American youth population.
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