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Sexting refers to the exchange of sexual content material via technological devices. The definitions of this phenomenon vary greatly, mainly, depending on the types of sexting: primary and secondary. Besides the above, there is no common perspective on whether sexting is a risk behavior that entails some type of impact by itself or not and, in such a case, whether this impact varies according to gender.
In addition, the need to be popular has shown to be a factor that could increase the probability of being involved in sexting. The present study analyzes the potential emotional impact of sexting as well as the effect of the need for popularity on this phenomenon and if it varies according to gender.
The sample comprised 2, high school students To assess sexting implication, four questions were presented to participants sending, receiving, forwarding, and receiving sexts via intermediary. Scales, self-report, about emotional impact depressed, annoyed, and active and need for popularity were also applied.
The obtained show that, although sexting has a clear emotional impact on adolescents, it does not appear to generate a negative impact among those involved, at least in the short term. Concretely, this phenomenon seems to trigger emotions related to activation in boys and girls I feel lively, energetic, satisfied, ready, determined, active.
Additionally, with respect to the need for popularity, its relevance, specially, in relation to active emotional impact has been confirmed by the analyses. Statistical models found for boys and girls were similar. In addition, some differences in emotional impact by gender were found, girls feeling more depressed and annoyed in secondary sexting, and boys more active regarding both types of sexting.
The digital world has opened up a host of opportunities in adolescent social life. In general terms, sexting refers to the exchange of sexual material via a technological device Van Ouytsel et al. However, sexting definitions vary much depending on the behavior in question, the type of material, and whether sexting is restricted to sexual content or also encompasses erotic content Barrense-Dias et al.
The different between these two kind of conceptual delimitations support the categorization of primary and secondary sexting Calvert, ; Schmitz and Siry, In the first case, minors send sexts between two people and do not share any further. In secondary sexting, someone shares sexts and they are forwarded beyond the intended recipient.
It is relevant to mention that primary sexting tends to be consensual with some exceptions like sextortion , but secondary sexting is likely to be non-consensual having a greater impact Lievens, , when freedom of choice is sometimes not an option Walker and Sleath, Involvement rates are highly varied, largely because of the wide range of attributable meanings Barrense-Dias et al. When sexting is defined as the sending of sexual content, prevalence ranges from 4. Receiving rates go anywhere from 7. These variations are partly linked to the increasing frequency of sexting in recent years Clancy et al.
Research has also pointed out how sexting is increasing with age Madigan et al. However, the onset of sexting could be starting earlier as age of access to smartphones is decreasing Influence Central, This circumstance makes it necessary to develop more studies to analyze sexting behaviors in young adolescents.
To date, studies have failed to show a clear pattern of concerning possible gender differences in relation to sexting prevalence. Some studies report that girls are more likely to share sexual images than boys Reyns et al. These differences, in one direction or another, could be due to the type of sexting behavior being analyzed.
As such, researchers have found that boys forward and request sexual photos and messages to a greater degree than girls, and that girls acknowledge that content of this type is more frequently asked of them Norman, ; Symons et al. Ringrose et al. Apart from the sexting involvement rates, this phenomenon has attracted increased public and scientific attention in recent years because of its potential consequences Gewirtz-Meydan et al.
However, not everyone in the scientific community considers sexting a risk behavior de Souza and Alves Banaco, However, other studies have found that sexting can affect the physical and psychological health of those involved as well as trigger symptoms of depression and even suicidal ideation Strasburger et al. Besides, sexting has also demonstrated to be associated to other risk behaviors e. Therefore, we agree with those authors who consider it is necessary to act upon any potentially risky online behaviors, and, in this case, the very behavior of sexting can have an impact in itself Van Ouytsel et al.
Therefore, sexting may bring an emotional impact and negative consequences for those involved Klettke et al. Impact is also linked to different motivations sexual, instrumental, and body image reinforcement of sexting behavior, being instrumental reasons which cause higher negative impact Bianchi et al.
In addition, studies have shown how online victimization is associated to negative emotional impact Ortega et al. The consequences of sexting seem to affect boys and girls differently. It is usually more harmful for girls, as they tend to be at the receiving end of more insults and humiliation, thus damaging their reputation Wood et al. This reality exposes the sexual double standard governing sexting, as it is girls who are more likely to have their reputation tarnished and who mostly face the consequences of this phenomenon as well as a greater negative impact Wood et al.
Thus, there seem to be different patterns to explain the roles that boys and girls take on in the negotiation process and the consequences by gender Wood et al. Furthermore, this might be linked to the type of sexting behavior being analyzed. Gaining popularity and peer acceptance is one of the main aims of adolescents in their social life Santor et al.
It has also been mentioned that there are no gender differences concerning need for popularity Dijkstra et al. Need for popularity correlates with sexting participation Gewirtz-Meydan et al. Adolescents who feel a stronger need to be popular are more likely to post photos of themselves Vanden Abeele et al. From this perspective, the obtained by Vanden Abeele et al. Need for popularity could also be linked to impact of sexting, as suggested by Alonso and Romero , although maybe not in the same way for boys and girls.
Need for popularity and gender were also identified as moderators of depressive symptoms Nesi and Prinstein, , pointing out the potential role of these variables over emotional impact of participants. This suggests that although the need for popularity affects boys and girls, different theoretical models could be required to explain these behaviors Vanden Abeele et al. Taking into the reviewed literature, our main objective was to analyze the potential emotional impact of sexting as well as the importance of the need for popularity in this phenomenon.
Specifically, we sought to examine 1 whether the different types of sexting primary and secondary affect those involved in it emotionally; 2 whether the need for popularity is related to both types of sexting and its emotional impact; and 3 whether the aforementioned relationships vary by gender. H1: Sexting would have an emotional impact on those involved, but this impact would vary according to the type of sexting and gender. H2: The need for popularity would affect sexting and its emotional impact but this relationship would vary by gender. The participants belonged to 12 compulsory secondary education ESO schools, three of which were publicly funded private institutions concertados from the south of Spain.
Specifically, However, in order to develop the study of primary and secondary sexting, we used two subsamples. So, this sample was composed of participants Some socio-demographical questions, gender and age, were required. To assess sexting, we used four direct questions relating to both primary and secondary sexting involvement, following the guidelines set out in numerous research studies in which direct questions were used to measure involvement Temple and Choi, ; Choi et al.
Just following the four sexting items, a filter question was asked, and those who said to have sent, received, or forwarded videos, photos, or messages of an erotic-sexual nature were required to fill in the current questionnaire.
This questionnaire comprises 18 items that evaluate three types of emotional impact: 1 Active, which includes animated; energetic, lively; satisfied, proud; ready, clear-headed; determined, daring; active, alert; 2 Depressed, which is made up of tense, nervous; guilty; scared, afraid; lonely; ashamed; defenseless, helpless; depressed, sad; fed up; jittery, worried; and 3 Annoyed, which covers angry, annoyed; irritable, in a bad mood; choleric, enraged. Reliability Rho coefficient in the present sample was optimal, 0.
To assess the need for popularity, we used the Need for Popularity Scale Santor et al. Its aim is to evaluate whether behaviors perceived as popular among peers are performed. Reliability Rho coefficient in the present sample was 0. We then contacted the schools to explain the research to them and request their collaboration. The parental written informed consent has been obtained through the acceptance of participation in the Project that is given by the School Board of each school.
In the case of administration of anonymous self-reports related to relevant matters to education, each family, when applying to the schools, delegates, unless expressed otherwise in written, the acceptance of participation to the School Board. This School Board is composed by teachers, students, and representatives of families who behave on behalf of school families. Once the School Board approval had been received, we proceeded to collect data.
The questionnaires were administered by specially trained researchers during class time, once teachers had given their prior consent. Completion of the questionnaires took approximately 40 min. Before starting, everyone was informed about the voluntary nature of study participation, response anonymity, and data confidentiality. We stressed the importance of answering truthfully to the students.
In addition, primary sexting was assessed just in those who said to have or have had a partner in the last 3 months given that the items in this case were referred to their boyfriend or girlfriend. First, we performed descriptive analyses M , SD, skewness and kurtosis of the study variables to explore their distribution as well as to identify potential irregularities, extreme cases, etc.
We then tested two structural equation models, one for each type of sexting, and the emotional impact dimensions. After that, we tested the gender invariance of these models. Afterward, we tested two equation models, again one for each sexting type, between need for popularity NfP from now and sexting. Once again, gender invariance testing was repeated on these models. Eventually, two more complex models, including NfP, sexting primary or secondary , and emotional impact were run and, one more time, gender invariance was tested.
The models were estimated via the Robust Maximum Likelihood Method, adjusted to the ordinal nature of the study variables Flora and Curran, To test the invariance of the models, between-gender multi-group analyses were run. We used a hierarchical strategy. First, we tested a model with no constraints configural model ; second, we tested a model in which equal factor loadings from items to factors were imposed measurement model ; and third, we tested a model in which, besides equal factor loadings, factor variances and covariances were imposed.
In order to assess non-invariance, we used the scaled difference chi-square test by Satorra and Bentler When non-invariance was detected, the Robust Lagrange Multiplier Test RLMT was used to analyze which constraints needed to be released in order to achieve invariance. After that, these constraints were released and the new models were run and compared. The statistical analyses were performed with EQS 6. Bentler, In primary sexting, ificant differences were found in active impact, yielding a higher average in boys. In secondary sexting, ificant differences in all types of impact were found.
Specifically, whereas boys showed a higher average in active impact, the contrary was true for girls in annoyed and depressed impact. No differences were found in NfP in primary and neither secondary sexting according gender see Table 1. Next, we analyzed two structural equation models with emotional impact. Neither of the models showed adequate statistical adjustment see Table 2. Table 2. Fit indexes of the models to emotional impact including the three impact factors: Active, Depressed, and Annoyed. We analyzed then the statistical indexes finding that the contribution of Depressed and Annoyed emotional impact to the models was minimum.
In the case of the Annoyed impact, the R 2 was 0. In the case of the Depressed impact, the R 2 was 0. Therefore, we decided to test the models again, linking each type of sexting exclusively to the Active impact factor, which has demonstrated a clear relationship to both types of sexting. As can be seen in Table 3 and Figure 1 , in this case, all models achieved an optimal fit. Next, we performed an invariance analysis to verify to what extent each of these two models was valid for boys and girls. Both models showed, in general, gender invariance with the only exception of the most restrictive model, the structural model, in secondary sexting see Table 4.
The RLMT identified equality in sexting as the to-be-released constraint. Once this constraint was released, model showed to be invariant see Table 4. Two models from NfP to involvement in sexting were then run See Figure 2.
Both showed an optimal adjustment although R 2 was pretty low see Table 5. Figure 2. Graphic solution of the models of Need for Popularity NfP to sexting. The between-gender multi-group analyses showed that these models were totally invariant for girls and boys see Table 6. Table 6. Fit statistics for the models NfP to sexting to test gender invariance. Lastly, the models were run by incorporating NfP as a predictor variable of involvement in the different types of sexting see Table 7 and Figure 3. Table 7. Figure 3. Graphic solution of the models of sexting to active impact including NfP.
Then, as in the cases, next invariance analyses by gender were run revealing, one more time, a total invariance between girls and boys see Table 8. Table 8. Fit statistics for the models sexting to active impact with NfP to test gender invariance. The overall aim of our study was to advance knowledge of the emotional impact behind sexting, shedding light not only on the emotional impact of this phenomenon among young involved individuals, but also on the influence that the need for popularity has on sexting involvement.Sexting girls
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