Sexting – is it an extreme form of social conversation, a component of a modern dating relationship, or sexually-charged behavior that could quickly escalate to a form of abuse?
These questions and others pertaining to the reasons people engage in sexting were part of presentations at an Internet Safety Symposium held recently in New York, which included accounts presented by Microsoft Research’s Danah Boyd, a senior researcher for the organization.
Boyd addressed information from her University of California-Berkeley doctoral dissertation, which is focused on the ways adolescents and teenagers in the U.S. use online forms of media to spend time with friends and build social relationships.
Specific motives for why teens would post sexual pictures of themselves online were addressed by Boyd at the symposium. During her presentation, Boyd described a young teen girl with career aspirations of becoming a model whose MySpace page included naked and partially-nude images of her body. Boyd suggested the girl made this decision based upon seeing celebrities such as Paris Hilton and others who gained fame once illicit images or videos were posted online.
In terms of sexting, the same type of motives can apply, say experts. Adolescents may believe sending illicit photos of themselves will somehow give them a boost toward a celebrity career or a leg-up on winning the attention of males in their peer groups. In Boyd’s words, from a LiveScience report, the girls sent nude photos via sexting to be seen as attractive and part of the “in” crowd.
Boyd also told participants in the symposium that adults utilize sexting at the same level as adolescents, and perhaps more frequently – and that while twenty-somethings may view sexting as a normal part of dating, those in older age demographics may engage in the behavior for the purpose of finding a sexual relationship outside their marriage.