Unsolicited Sexts and Unwanted Requests for Sexts: Reflecting on the Online Sexual Harassment of Youth

Mishna, Faye; Milne, Elizabeth; Cook, Charlene; Slane, Andrea; Ringrose, Jessica
Youth & Society

The purpose of this qualitative study was to obtain youth perspectives on consensual and non-consensual sexting. We began this study on young people?s (12?19) sexting practices in a large urban center. Before the study was put on pause due to COVID-19 physical distancing measures, we conducted 12 focus groups with 62 participants (47 girls, 15 boys). A key finding was that many girls had received unsolicited sexts (e.g., ?dick pics?) or unwanted requests for sexts. Analysis revealed four interconnected themes: (1) unsolicited sexts; (2) unwanted requests for sexts; (3) complexity associated with saying ?no?; and (4) general lack of adult support. Using our findings from before COVID-19, we discuss the potential impact of COVID-19 on teens? sexting experiences and outline the ways in which social workers and other mental health practitioners can support adolescents and their parents in navigating this new context of sexting during and beyond the global pandemic.