Parents, peers, and pornography: Social predictors of adolescent sexting behaviors and the influence of gender and parental mediation


Parents and policymakers have expressed concern over the developing trend of adolescent sexting and its associated risks. A growing body of research has sought to examine both predictors and outcomes of adolescent sexting in order to more fully understand the phenomenon, yet much is still unknown regarding the factors that impact adolescents’ engagement in sexting behaviors. The aim of the present study was to examine how adolescents’ pornography use, peer norms, gender, and their parents’ mediation of sexting influence their sending, receiving, and soliciting sexts. An online survey of 690 adolescents (ages 15 – 18) from across the United States was administered. Multiple regression analyses demonstrate that adolescents’ pornography use and peer descriptive and injunctive norms about sexting are significantly associated with sending, receiving, and soliciting sexts. Moderation analyses using PROCESS SPSS suggest that parents’ active mediation of sexting does not effectively alter the influence of pornography use on sexting but may, in some cases, backfire and lead to more frequent sexting. Further, parents’ autonomy-supportive restrictive mediation of sexting seems to effectively alter adolescents’ responses to peer descriptive norms about sexting, but not injunctive norms. Finally, moderation models suggest that the influence of peer norms (both descriptive and injunctive) on sexting behaviors is stronger for adolescent boys than girls. These findings have practical implications for parents and policymakers who seek to administer teen sexting interventions.


Densley, Rebecca