Publication date: July 2019
Source: Children and Youth Services Review, Volume 102
Author(s): D. Marengo, M. Settanni, C. Longobardi
Adolescents’ involvement in online sexual behaviors is influenced by their developmental need to explore, define, and assert their own sexual identity. Among these behaviors, engaging in sexting behaviors has been shown to have negative consequences for adolescents’ well-being because it increases the risk of exposure to different forms of online victimization. Based on these considerations, the present study aimed to examine the associations between two types of sexting behaviors, namely, verbal and visual sexting, and three specific dimensions of adolescents’ sexuality, namely, their perceived sex drive, sexual self-concept, and sexual orientation. Next, we tested the hypothesis that involvement in sexting behaviors might be a mediator of the link between sexuality dimensions and exposure to online unwanted sexual solicitations, and cyberbullying victimization. The sample consisted of 653 high school students (66.9% females, Mean age = 16.31, SD = 1.34). We found both verbal and visual sexters to be older, have a stronger sex drive, and sexual self-concept than non-involved adolescents (i.e., non-sexters; while visual sexters were more likely to report non-heterosexual orientation than were verbal sexters and non-sexters. Further, involvement sexting behaviors increased the risk of exposure to both cyberbullying victimization and unwanted online sexual solicitations. Regression analysis showed visual sexting acted as a mediator of the links between the sexuality dimensions and both forms of online victimization. These findings have practical implications for the development of programs aimed at educating adolescents and their caregivers about the negative consequences of the uncontrolled online sharing of visual sexts, as well as providing involved adolescents with the skills to cope with these consequences.