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Building a Prevention Framework to Address Teen "Sexting" Behaviors

NCJ Number
Date Published
September 2013
186 pages
Findings and methodology are presented for a multi-State, mixed-method study of youth and adult perspectives on teen "sexting" behavior, defined as teens' "self-production and distribution of sexually explicit visual content via cell phones, social media, and other forms of digital communications."
The findings suggest a broad conceptual framework that accounts for variation in sexting behaviors and contexts while recognizing the diverse spectrum of developmental, psychological, social, institutional, technological, and cultural forces that might influence these behaviors. The proposed ecology model contains four primary sets of elements. First, "descriptive elements" include the specific activities, content, settings, and participants that may be included under the "sexting" label. Second, "situational context" relates to the interpersonal dynamics and cognitive and emotional states that may be associated with "sexting" behaviors. Third, the "developmental context" encompasses the developmental processes that broadly influence teen decisions and behaviors, including those related to sexting. Fourth, the "environmental context" pertains to the external spheres of influence that may affect teen decisions and behaviors, including those related to sexting. The first two domains (represented in the model's two innermost circles) describe and highlight the diversity of activities, characteristics, and context that might be labeled as "sexting." This emphasizes the diverse range of actions, content characteristics, physical and virtual settings, motivational scenarios, and situational factors. The latter two domains (represented by the two outermost circles) place "sexting" in the broader context of teen psychosocial development. This model suggests that monitoring and control of "sexting" behavior is less effective than open discussion, dialog, and partnerships between social control and media specialists. The study's focus groups and stakeholder meetings elicited perspectives from just over 300 youth and adults on the nature of adolescent "sexting" behaviors, the context in which these behaviors might occur, and the parameters of effective responses. 4 tables, 47 references, and appended studies that have investigated the prevalence of "sexting" behaviors among teens, data from questionnaire responses, and data-collection instruments

Date Published: September 1, 2013