Sexting, Revenge Pornography, and Digital Dating Abuse: New Research on Adolescent Digital Behaviors

Publication Date


Document Type

Conference Proceeding


Objectives: This study will present data examining sexualize digital behaviors in typical and clinical sample groups of adolescents. Digital technology and social media have become primary methods of communication among youth. However, digital communications that are part of troubled romantic and sexual relationships can be associated with very negative outcomes. Digital problems include use of relentless social pressure, empty promises, coercion, or bullying to obtain nude photos; releasing nude photos after the end of a relationship (“revenge porn”); debasing and humiliating peers for real or imagined sexual activity (“slut shaming”); and, very likely, other means that currently are undetected.

Methods: This retrospective study of more than 700 adolescents examined digital sexual harassment and revenge porn in subjects who were also assessed for psychopathology.

Results: Digital sexual harassment proved tricky to assess. Not only did we need to examine pressured or coerced sexting but also the context within which that type of sexting occurred. However, it emerged that when pressured sexting was experienced by subjects who were not in a stable relationship or were younger than high school age, trauma was the most common consequence after sexting. This was more pronounced in subjects who had a history of psychopathology. Revenge porn was far less common than sexting but also more traumatic and more likely to lead to very negative outcomes, such as depression or extreme anxiety. Slut shaming occurred primarily between female subjects and was unrelated to actual sexual activity.

Conclusions: Assessment of sexualized digital behaviors is complex but needs to be part of any meaningful evaluation of romantic and social relationships in adolescents. Subjects with a history of psychopathology or subjects who engage in digital sexualized behaviors at a young age, seem to be at highest risk. The social context within which sexting, revenge porn, and slut shaming occur is also clearly a key to understanding coping mechanisms and negative outcomes.

Original Citation

Englander, E. (2016). Sexting, Revenge Pornography, and Digital Dating Abuse: New Research on Adolescent Digital Behaviors. Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry 55(10, supplement), S338. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jaac.2016.07.415