Date of Award

10-22-2012

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Criminology

First Advisor

Dennis M. Giever, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Rosemary Gido, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Kathleen Hanrahan, Ph.D.

Fourth Advisor

Shannon Phaneuf, Ph.D.

Abstract

This study explores participation in sexting by teenagers in the United States. The term `sexting' was coined by the popular media to describe the dissemination of sexually explicit or suggestive messages via cellular phone (Shafron-Perez, 2009; Boucek, 2009; Dilberto & Mattey, 2009). The person who originates the `sext' is often unable to control where the message is forwarded, which can result in the content of the messages being seen by others besides the intended viewer (Shafron-Perez, 2009). A number of states have taken a punitive approach to sexting by charging minors (those under age 18) with child pornography for their participation in sexting (Wastler, 2010). Empirical research on this topic is limited, with existing studies suggesting rates of sexting participation from as low as 1% (Mitchell, et al., 2011) to as high as 39% (The National Campaign, 2009). This study utilized a mixed-methods research approach, where surveys were administered to a group of freshmen-level college students (N = 207), and focus groups were conducted. A total of 33.8% of the respondents reported sending nude, semi-nude, or sexually suggestive pictures to someone else while under the age of 18. Also, self-control emerged as a significant variable in explaining teenage sexting. Based on these results, a number of policy implications are made regarding the best approach to handling teenage sexting.

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