The term “sexting” refers to the sending and receiving of sexually explicit imagery via some form of virtual messaging. Although sexting is by no means restricted to young people, it is the participation of young people and its effect on their well-being that have led to widespread concern from parents, educators, and the media alike. Ringrose, Gill, Livingstone, and Harvey (2012) argued that this “media panic” exists in response to a predominantly adult discourse with little input from the teenagers and young people who engage in sexting. As such, this paper will review the small but emerging field of qualitative research into teen sexting (TS) to identify the effect of sexting on the well-being of young people. Findings from this review indicate that many young people viewed sexting as “fun” (Lippman & Campbell, 2014) and amusing (Burkett, 2015). Moreover, sexting can be part of a sexual-experimentation phase for teens who are not ready to engage in physical sexual activity. Negative effects on well-being including reputational damage are also discussed. It is concluded that researchers must continue to use creative, participatory methods with young people to further explore the well-being effects of this complex form of communication.


Young People, Adolescence, Sexting, Digital Media, Relationships, Social Media, Sex Education, E-Safety, Qualitative Research, Literature Review, Focus Groups, Interviews, Mixed Methods

Author Bio(s)

Andrea is a first-year PhD student and Assistant Lecturer at Birmingham City University. Her research focuses on “teen sexting” and how the experience of it differs depending on the type of school a young person attends (single-sex or co-educational). Prior to starting her PhD, she studied Psychology at the University of Birmingham, before moving onto a qualitative childhood-obesity intervention study within the University of Birmingham’s Institute of Health Research. Correspondence regarding this article can be addressed directly to: andrea.anastassiou@bcu.ac.uk.

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