The impact of the so-called “sexting” on sexual behavior is nil, a team of researchers recently found after conducting an analysis of hundreds of journal articles on the subject, but underscored “significant shortcomings” in the research itself.
Kami Kosenko, an associate professor of communication at North Carolina State University and lead author of a paper on the meta-analysis, said they wanted to analyze the many studies that have been done on sexting to look at how it might affect sexual behavior.
“But the work is being done in a wide variety of populations by researchers from many different backgrounds,” Kosenko said in a statement, adding that they wanted to see “if anything, can be gleaned from these studies.”
They found 234 journal articles that studied sexting, but the team trimmed this number down to only 15, which looked at whether there was “any link between sexting and: sexual activity; unprotected sex; and/or the number of sex partners one has.”
The team found no “clearly defined quantitative measure of sexting or sexual behavior” in the studies not considered.
Looking only at their correlation, the statistical relationship between sexting and these sexual activities was weak, the researchers found, which rendered indicating “if sexting actually influenced behavior at all.”
They also learned from the journals examined that there was not an “agreed-upon definition” of sexting.
Co-author of the review Andres Binder, an associate professor of communication at NC State, said, “There are two take-home messages here. First is that sexting does not appear to pose a public health threat to America’s youth – so don’t panic. Second, if this is something we want to study, we need to design better studies.”
“For example, the field needs a common, clear definition of what we mean by sexting, as well as more robust survey questions and methods,” Binder said.