Burnet finds 40 per cent of young Victorians have sexted in the past 12 months

Burnet Institute

15 July, 2013

For the first time, the Burnet Institute asked a question about sexting in the annual Big Day Out survey.

By Lucie van den Berg, The Herald Sun

Two in five young Victorians have sent or received a sexually explicit message in the past 12 months, research reveals.

The prevalence of the new trend known as sexting emerged as health researchers begin an Australian first study into the practice.

The Burnet Institute will uncover who engages in sexting, what type of images and text are shared, who sends and receives the information and what motivates people to sext.

Dr Megan Lim, the head of sexual health at the institute’s Centre for Population Health, said little was known about sexting, but its 2013 annual health survey showed the practice was widespread. It revealed that 40 per cent of young people had engaged in the practice in the past year.

“We hear about some of the major problems about girls who have committed suicide after sexting gone wrong and children who have been put on the sex offenders register, but we wanted to get young people’s opinions on sexting and its implications,” Dr Lim said.

She says the first part of the survey will attempt to uncover how widespread sexting is and the second will consist of focus groups with up to 30 young people.

“We want to know what motivates people to sext, whether it’s pressure or they might be doing it as a joke,” Dr Lim said.

She said, as far as she could ascertain, this was the first study in Australia that would quantify the prevalence of sexting. She is also hoping to gauge how well informed young people are about the legal ramifications of sexting.

“We don’t think many young people realise how serious the legal ramifications are - sexting under 18 is considered child pornography,” Dr Lim said.

A Victorian Government parliamentary inquiry into sexting recommended changes to the law so that children who sext are not charged with an adult offence and new laws to make it an offence to distribute an intimate image of someone without their consent.

For the first time the Burnet Institute asked a question about sexting in its annual health survey, conducted with 1500 people aged 16-29 at Melbourne’s Big Day Out festival.

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Contact Details

For more information in relation to this news article, please contact:

Associate Professor Megan SC Lim

Deputy Program Director, Disease Elimination; Head, Young People’s Health




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