RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — A new analysis by N.C. State University researchers found that sexting “does not appear to pose a public health threat to America’s youth,” but that more sexting research is needed.
Kami Kosenko, an associated professor of communication, led the review, which was a meta-analysis of already published research in the field.
After winnowing more than 200 journal articles on the subject down to 15 articles that examined the relationship between sexting and behavior using quantitative measures, researchers failed to find any causation between participation in sexting and sexual activity, unprotected sex or number of sexual partners.
There was a weak correlation between those categories and sexting, but the relationship was far from strong enough for researchers to show sexting influenced behavior at all.
“There’s a lot of work being done on the phenomenon of sexting and how it may influence sexual behavior, but the work is being done in a wide variety of populations by researchers from many different backgrounds,” Kosenko said in a news release. “We wanted to analyze this broad body of work to see what, if anything, can be gleaned from all of these studies.”
Researchers were hindered by the fact that there’s no standard academic definition of sexting — some counted only text messages, while others included videos and photos, for example.
“There are two take-home messages here,” said Andrew Binder, co-author of the review and an associate professor of communication at N.C. State, in a news release. “First is that sexting does not appear to pose a public health threat to America’s youth – so don’t panic. Second, if this is something we want to study, we need to design better studies. For example, the field needs a common, clear definition of what we mean by sexting, as well as more robust survey questions and methods.”
The paper appears in the Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication. Geoffrey Luurs, a Ph.D. student at N.C. State is also listed as a co-author.