Owing to an increase in smartphone ownership among teenagers, the prevalence of sexting among adolescents has increased in the past two decades, finds a study involving over a lakh participant.
The study on the sharing of sexually explicit images, videos, or messages through electronic means among teenagers involved 110,380 participants.
The findings, based on a meta-analysis of 39 studies from 1990 to 2016, established that an estimated one in seven teenagers send sexts and one in four receives them.
Media portrayals of sexting have often implicated adolescent girls as the senders of naked photographs and adolescent boys as the requesters.
However, the study found no significant sex differences in the rate of sending or receiving sexts.
Moreover, the prevalences of forwarding a sext without consent and having a sext forwarded without consent were 12.0 percent and 8.4 percent, respectively, said researchers including Sheri Madigan, Assistant Professor at the University of Calgary in Canada.
The nonconsensual forwarding of sexts can lead to harassment by peers, cyberbullying, or blackmailing and in extreme cases lead to suicide.
Thus the study, published in the journal JAMA Pediatrics, stated that age-specific information on sexting and its potential consequences should regularly be provided as a component of sex education.
Efforts and resources to criminalise sexts should be redirected to educational programs on digital citizenship and healthy relationships, the researchers said.