Sexting: adolescents’ perceptions of the applications used for, motives for, and consequences of sexting

Joris Van Ouytsel, Ellen Van Gool, Michel Walrave, Koen Ponnet, Emilie Peeters

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

113 Scopus citations


This study explores adolescents’ perceptions of applications used for sexting, the motives for engaging in sexting, and the consequences they relate to sexting behavior. We conducted 11 same-sex focus groups among 57 adolescents (66.67% females; n = 38) between 15 and 18 years old in Flanders, Belgium. The analysis revealed that sexting mostly occurs through smartphone applications, such as Snapchat, which are perceived to be a more intimate form of communication than other digital applications, such as social networking sites. Both female and male respondents observed that girls might sometimes feel pressured to engage in sexting. They did so mostly out of fear that otherwise they would lose their boyfriends. Female and male respondents mentioned three main ways in which sexting photographs could be abused: (1) they could be used to coerce or to blackmail the victim, (2) they could be distributed out of revenge after the breakup of a romantic relationship, or (3) they could be forwarded or shown to peers in order to boast about having received the digital photograph. Anecdotes, which illustrate our findings, are included in the results. Suggestions for future research and implications for practice are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)446-470
Number of pages25
JournalJournal of Youth Studies
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 21 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • Sexting
  • adolescents
  • qualitative research
  • sexually explicit photographs
  • snapchat
  • social media
  • teen dating

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Social Sciences(all)
  • Life-span and Life-course Studies


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