New government funded research has found that the peer pressure on teenagers to send and receive sexually explicit images of each other as a way of fitting in and being accepted is huge.

According to Melbourne University researcher Shelley Walker, this pressure in turn is coming from the media who are increasingly sexualising and normalising every aspect of society from music videos and advertising to sports role models and celebrities.

These findings were recently presented at the Australasian Sexual Health Conference in Canberra, where it was observed that both young men and women were affected by the pressures of sexting. For young men, their manhood was questioned if they were not seen to be sending and receiving sexual photos, and the girls felt they had to participate in order to keep up with their friends and to be accepted by the boys.

Ms Walker, of the primary care research unit at Melbourne University, said her study involved interviews with 15 male and 19 female participants, aged 15 to 20. All of those interviewed had “at least one story to share, if not more”.

It seems that sexting has exploded in the world of young people, with nearly every young person coming into sexting either by sending or receiving. This is highlighted by the fact that there is now a free sexting app available for young people to download to their smartphones, which although it promoted safe sex, “does highlight how potentially normalised this behaviour has now become”.

Ms Walker said that one teenage boy who had been interviewed didn’t think sexting was being taken seriously enough and it was a huge problem. He said “it’s going to be everywhere”.

Writer Helen Splarn. Editor Dr Ramesh Manocha.
Source: The Sydney Morning Herald