An Exploratory Study of Sexting Behaviors Among Heterosexual and Sexual Minority Early Adolescents

Joris Van Ouytsel, Michel Walrave, Koen Ponnet

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

51 Scopus citations


Purpose: Although research on adolescent sexting—the sending of self-made sexually explicit pictures through digital media—has increased in recent years, prior studies have primarily focused on older youth and the act of sending of such images. Little is known about the experiences of early adolescent sexual minority youth, who might be particularly vulnerable to abusive forms of sexting. To address this gap in the literature, we aim to investigate differences in the prevalence of a wide range of sexting behaviors among a convenience sample of heterosexual and sexual minority early adolescents. Methods: A survey was conducted among 3,109 adolescents (53.5% girls; n = 1,647) aged between 12 and 15 years (mean = 13.01 years; standard deviation = .83). We examined differences in sexting behavior by sexual orientation, controlling for gender, age, and amount of Internet use. Results: The results show that sexual minority youth were more likely to have sent, received, and asked for sexting images. They were also more likely to have experienced pressure to send sexually explicit pictures. There were no associations between sexual minority status and the perpetration of nonconsensual forms of sexting. Conclusions: Several types of sexting were not uncommon among heterosexual and sexual minority youth. Clinicians and counselors should be aware that sexual minority youth are more likely to experience, but not to perpetrate, abusive sexting behaviors. The results underscore the need for educational efforts to focus on resilience training for sexual minority adolescents.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)621-626
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Adolescent Health
Issue number5
StatePublished - Nov 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • Sexting
  • Sexual minority
  • Social media

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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