Relationship Currency

Brad M. Griffin | Dec 17, 2009

A research report was released this week from the Pew Internet & American Life Project called Teens and Sexting, authored by Amanda Lenhart, Senior Research Specialist for Pew.

Theres been a lot of speculation about how much this phenomenon is happening, but this report focused on WHYthe scenarios and attitudes that lead to sending provocative sexual images by phone. Lenhart identifies three primary scenarios:

1. Exchanges of images solely between two romantic partners
2. Exchanges between partners that are then shared outside the relationship
3. Exchanges between people who are not yet in a relationship, but where often one person hopes to be.

Teens attitudes toward the practice are fairly widespread, though quotes like this from a 9th/10th grade boy offer a lot of material for good conversations:

No, [its not a big deal] we are not having sex, we are sexting. Its not against my religion or anything.

Here are two really interesting quotes from Lenhart herself about the role sexting is taking among adolescents:

Teens explained to us how sexually suggestive images have become a form of relationship currency. These images are shared as a part of or instead of sexual activity, or as a way of starting or maintaining a relationship with a significant other. And they are also passed along to friends for their entertainment value, as a joke or for fun.

The desire for risk-taking and sexual exploration during the teenage years combined with a constant connection via mobile devices creates a perfect storm for sexting. Teenagers have always grappled with issues around sex and relationships, but their coming-of-age mistakes and transgressions have never been so easily transmitted and archived for others to see.

Read the Full Report

Brad M. Griffin

Brad M. Griffin is the Senior Director of Content for the Fuller Youth Institute, where he develops research-based training for youth workers and parents. A speaker, writer, and volunteer youth pastor, Brad is the coauthor of over a dozen books, including 3 Big Questions That Change Every Teenager, Faith in an Anxious World, Growing Young, several Sticky Faith books, Every Parent’s Guide to Navigating Our Digital World, and Can I Ask That? Brad and his family live in Southern California, where he serves as Pastor of Youth and Family Ministries at Mountainside Communion.


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