Technology creates changes and often raises anxieties. One such anxiety laden study of cell phones in Cusco was recently published by a group of researchers from Brigham Young University and Utah State University in conjunction with colleagues at the San Antonio Abad University. It addresses the use of these devices by adolescents in Cusco to sext, to transmit sexual messages.
The study’s multiple authors created a survey on texting and sex which was administered widely in colegios, high schools, in Cusco.
Justifying their research, the authors state upfront that “Sexting (sexual messaging via mobile devices) among adolescents may result in increased risky sexual practices, psychological distress and in some cases, suicide”, though they did not study those issues.
949 youths completed surveys. Of them 65.7% were female and a bit more than 20% of the total sample reported having sexted. Though a smaller part of the sample, young men were far more likely to have sexted, 35.7%. Of girls only 13.19% claimed to have sexted. Furthermore, girls were more likely to report the existence of parental rules and controls.
The authors ask what might correlate with “risk” of sexting, as if this behavior itself were a form of suicidality.
Their analysis concluded that “for girls, having been cyberbullied resulted in an increased odds of sexting … as did having parents feeling less badly about the respondent having sexual relations…. For boys . . ., factors associated with increased odds for sexting included sending more text messages during the previous day, parents feeling less badly about the respondent having sexual relations . . . , and having been involved in fighting during the past 12 months… . Having parents with rules about sending or receiving sexual messages was also associated with decreased odds of sexting for boys in this study sample.”
As one might expect, they found that the presence of parental rules and controls was one of the most important factors limiting sexting for both genders. Then the authors note the wide disparity between male and female rates of texting. Though the overall rates (20% are about the same for teenagers in the US, North American teenagers do not show the degree of gender disparity as do youths in Cusco. The authors argue that cultural standards on gender in Cusco need further study.
Based on other research elsewhere the authors suggest that males and females use texting, and hence sexting differently. For girls they focus on “relationship-oriented conversations ”while boys use texting “to coordinate activities”. This should be studied in Cusco and not just stated from earlier research.
In conclusion the authors argue for parental controls and for public health involvement in high schools to teach people the risks of sexting. Curiously, they do not seem aware of the erthmcoentric implications of their approach and recommendations or the problems of medicalization of their social and cultural anxieties.
Joshua H West, Cameron E Lister, P Cougar Hall, Benjamin T Crookston, Paola Rivera Snow, Maria Elena Zvietcovich, and Richard P West, “Sexting among Peruvian adolescents”, BMC Public Health (2014 Aug 7;14:811).