Date of Award

Spring 2023

Project Type


Program or Major


Degree Name

Master of Arts

First Advisor

David Finkelhor

Second Advisor

Heather Turner

Third Advisor

Karen Van Gundy


Purpose: This study aims to better understand adolescent sexting and peer influence in the United States. Sexting is defined as the sending or receiving of sexually explicit or suggestive photos and videos of oneself (Bianchi et al. 2019; Bragard and Fisher 2021; Döring 2014). This study builds upon current adolescent sexting literature by analyzing the impact of gender identity, sexual orientation, pornography consumption frequency, and peer sexting on youth sexting frequency. Methods: Data for this study came from the Technology Facilitated Abuse Survey from the Crimes Against Children Research Center. Respondents were ages 18-28 (N=1982); the sample was slightly older and more female than the national average. Survey weights allow for nationally representative estimates. I used Pearson chi-square tests to assess the association between predictor variables and youth sexting frequency. I then performed ordered logistic regressions to analyze the differences between sexting frequency outcomes among my predictor variables, controlling for all other factors. Results: Less than 30% of youth engaged in sexting (17% rarely and 12% often). Over 60% reported their friends were sexting. Those more likely to sext included females, non-heterosexuals, those who watched pornography often, and those with any friends who sexted. Those with any friends sexting were 3.6 times more likely to sext often compared to those with no friends sexting. Conclusions: Socioeconomic status and high Adverse Childhood Experiences did not predict sexting frequency, indicating that certain groups of at-risk youth are no more likely to engage in sexting than their less risk-prone peers. As school offers the primary source of adolescent socialization, sex education curricula should include sexting education and digital literacy. These forms of education can provide youth with accurate information and address risks associated with sexting and pornography consumption. Having accurate information on sexting may minimize the association of peer influence on youth sexting frequency.