How Common is Sexting [Facts & Statistics]

We’ve collected and aggregated longitudinal survey data on self-reported sexting behaviors of 110,380 teenagers and 54,677 adults. Collectively this makes it the largest longitudinal dataset on sexting ever created with a world of insights hidden within. In this article, we share some of our findings from analyzing the extensive dataset.

Table of contents:

Key Findings

  • 9 out of 10 adults have sent or received a sexual message, an image, or a video.
  • 1 in 5 teenagers has taken part in sexting – sending, or receiving sexually nude or nearly nude photos through text or email.
  • 1 in 7 teenagers has exchanged sexts (with images or videos) with a partner.
  • Over 50% of adults reluctantly engaged in sexting.
  • 18% of people have shared a sexting message with others without consent, of which 55% share it with more than one other person.
  • 24% of teenagers aged 14-18 have sent sexts with images
  • 39% of parents report feeling worried their child may engage in sexting

Sexting over time

After aggregating and collecting data on different aspects of dating the first thing we did was look into the historical development of sexting in the survey responses.

We looked at the prevalence of respondents reporting they have sent a sexting message and if they report having received a sexting message. We also looked at how many have shared a sexting message with a third party without consent to do so. We split the data on teenagers, aged 11-18; and adults, aged 19+.

Sexting prevalence amongst adults over time

The data shows that in 2023 the following is reported of adults about their sexting behavior:

  • 87.9% of adults report that they have received a sexting message.
  • 76.9% of adults report that they have sent a sexting message.
  • 18.2% of adults report that they have shared a sexting message without consent.
Sexting prevalence among adults

The raw data is available in the below table:

Among Adults (+19)Sent sextReceived sextShared sext

Sexting prevalence amongst teenagers over time

From the newest recorded data in 2023, teens report the following when asked about their sexting behavior:

  • 38.2% of teens report that they have received a sexting message.
  • 26.5% of teens report that they have sent a sexting message.
  • 13.0% of teens report that they have shared a sexting message without consent.
Sexting prevalence amongst teenagers over time

Again, the raw data for teenage sexting prevalence is accessible in the below table:

Among teens (11-18)Sent sextReceived sextShared sext

Comparing teenagers and adults

1. Have sent a sexting message

  • There is a clear upward trend in sexting behavior for both teenagers and adults from 2000 to 2023.
  • Teens: Started at 1.9% in 2000 and rose to 26.5% in 2023.
  • Adults: Began at 2.7% in 2000 and climbed significantly to 76.9% in 2023.
  • Notably, the sexting behavior among adults experienced a sharper rise compared to teenagers, especially from 2016 onwards.
  • Both teenagers and adults have shown an increasing trend in sexting behavior from 2000 to 2023, with adults experiencing a sharper rise, especially after 2016.
  • The growth rate of sexting behavior among adults is more volatile compared to teenagers. This volatility is particularly evident in the mid-2010s for adults.
  • Teenagers have had a more consistent and gradual increase in their sexting behavior growth rate over the analyzed period.
Percentage that have sent a sexting message

Comparing Growth Rates

Comparing Growth Rates

The growth rates of sexting behavior fluctuate over the years for both teenagers and adults.

While both groups experienced increasing growth rates in the early 2000s, the rates tend to fluctuate more significantly for adults. This is especially notable from 2006 onwards.

For adults, there was a marked spike in growth rate around 2016, reaching its peak and then declining, but remaining relatively high.

Teenagers, on the other hand, display a more consistent and gradual increase in their growth rate over the years.

Table with a dataset on teens and adults who sent a sext

% have sent sextTeensAdults

2. Have received a sexting message

  1. Overall Increase in Sexting: Both teens and adults have seen an increase in the percentage of individuals who have received sexts over the years.
  2. Steeper Rise for Adults: While both groups saw an increase, the adults’ curve is steeper, indicating a faster rate of growth in the percentage of adults receiving sexts, especially between 2010 and 2018.
  3. Significant Peaks and Dips: There are noticeable peaks and dips in the data, especially for adults. For instance:
    • A significant peak for adults around 2010-2012.
    • A sharp decline in 2014 followed by a surge in 2016.
    • Another dip in 2019.
  4. Teens vs. Adults in the Early 2000s: In the early 2000s, the percentage of adults receiving sexts was slightly higher than teens, but this gap increased significantly in the subsequent years.
  5. Plateauing for Teens: Post-2010, the percentage of teens receiving sexts seems to be increasing at a slower rate compared to the previous decade.
  6. High Rates in Recent Years: By 2023, more than 1 in 3 teens and almost 9 in 10 adults have received a sext, indicating how common this has become in recent years.
Percentage that have received a sexting message

Table with dataset on received sexting messages

% have received sextTeensAdults
  1. Teens:
    • From 2000 to 2009, the percentage of teens who shared messages without consent remained relatively low, fluctuating between 3.7% and 8%.
    • There was a notable increase from 2009 onwards, peaking at 14.5% in 2017. However, after 2017 there was a slight decline, but the percentages remained higher than the early 2000s, settling around 13% by 2023.
  2. Adults:
    • The percentage of adults who shared messages without consent was relatively stable from 2000 to 2009, ranging between 5.6% and 9.8%.
    • Starting in 2010, there was a significant jump, reaching its peak at 25.8% in 2013.
    • Post-2013, the percentage saw fluctuations, with noticeable drops in 2014 and 2019. By 2023, it was around 18.2%.
  3. Comparative Analysis:
    • In the early 2000s, the percentages for both teens and adults were relatively close.
    • Starting from 2010 onwards, adults generally had a higher percentage of sharing messages without consent compared to teens, with significant disparities in certain years like 2013, 2015, and 2017.
    • In the most recent years, the gap between teens and adults has started to close again.
Have shared contents of a sexting message without consent
% have shared sextTeensAdults

Teens and sexting

  • 1 out of 7 teens aged 12-17 report to have exchanged sexting images or videos with others (14.2%). While 24% of teenagers aged 14-18 have sent a sext containing a video or an image.
  • 1 in 5 teens have taken part in some form of sexting; sending, receiving, or sharing sexts (all with images or videos).
  • 40% of teens report having engaged in sexting (sexually explicit messages, images, or videos).
  • 70% of teenagers who report to have sent an image or a video based sext to a partner felt coerced or pressured into doing so.
  • Teenage girls are 20% more likely to send a semi-nude or nude photo in a sext (22%) comared to teenage boys (18%).
  • 39% of parents of teenagers report to feel worried their child might engage in sexting.

Age and Gender differences in sexting

Looking at some demographical differences of the most recent data (2020-2023) there are some interesting findings in tabulating the dataset.

In general the data shows that:

  • Women report to sext proportionally more than men
  • 70% of women believe that sexting is considered cheating

Sexting to others

  1. Females consistently sext more than males across all age groups. The largest gap is seen in the “Adult, 41-60” group, where 88.4% of females sent a sext compared to 65.4% of males.
  2. Sexting is most prevalent in the “Adult, 41-60” age group, with 76.9% for all, 65.4% for males, and a significant 88.4% for females.
  3. The youngest age group (Teenager, 11-18) has the lowest percentage of individuals who sent a sext, but there’s still a clear gender disparity, with females (31.8%) sexting more than males (21.2%).
  4. As expected, the “All adults” category averages out the adult age groups and showcases the overall trend of females sexting more than males.
percentage of individuals who sent a sexting message to others
% Sent sextAllMaleFemale
Teenager, 11-1826.5%21.2%31.8%
Adult, 19-4073.1%65.7%80.4%
Adult, 41-6076.9%65.4%88.4%
Adult, 61+52.3%42.9%61.7%
All adults67.4%58.0%76.8%

Receiving sexting messages

  1. Females receive sexts more than males across all age groups. This disparity is most pronounced in the “Adult, 19-40” age group, where 91.9% of females received a sext compared to 75.2% of males.
  2. The highest percentage of individuals receiving sexts is in the “Adult, 41-60” age group, with 87.9% for all, 86.1% for males, and 89.7% for females. The difference between genders is narrower in this age group compared to others.
  3. The “Teenager, 11-18” age group sees a significant gap, with 45.8% of females receiving a sext compared to 30.6% of males.
  4. The “All adults” category again averages out the adult age groups and showcases the overall trend of females receiving more sexts than males.
percentage of individuals who Received sexting messages
% Received sextAllMaleFemale
Teenager, 11-1838.2%30.6%45.8%
Adult, 19-4083.5%75.2%91.9%
Adult, 41-6087.9%86.1%89.7%
Adult, 61+61.5%50.5%72.6%
All adults77.6%70.6%84.7%
  1. Males share sexts more than females across all age groups. This is a reversal from the previous trends where females generally sent and received more sexts than males. The disparity is most pronounced in the “Adult, 19-40” age group, where 25.7% of males shared a sext compared to only 2.9% of females.
  2. The highest percentage of individuals sharing sexts is in the “Adult, 41-60” age group, with 18.2% for all, 28.8% for males, and 7.6% for females. The gender difference here is substantial.
  3. The “Teenager, 11-18” age group also displays a significant gender gap, with 18.2% of males sharing a sext compared to 7.8% of females.
  4. In the “All adults” category, the trend continues with males (20.5%) sharing more sexts than females (4.7%).
percentage of individuals who shared a sext across different age groups from 2020 to 2023
% Shared sextAllMaleFemale
Teenager, 11-1813.0%18.2%7.8%
Adult, 19-4014.3%25.7%2.9%
Adult, 41-6018.2%28.8%7.6%
Adult, 61+5.4%7.1%3.7%
All adults12.6%20.5%4.7%

Reasons for sexting

As a part of investigating sexting behaviors respondents were asked to list the reasons they believed they engaged in sexting. Some the the findings from looking into this part of the data is listed below:

  • 66% of teenage girls report that they engage in sexting to be flirtatious and fun
  • 66% of teenage boys report that they engage in sexting to be flirtatious and fun
  • 51% of teenage girls report that pressure from a man was the reason for them engaging in sexting.
  • 61% of all respondents report that they have engaged in sexting at least once because they felt pressured to do so.
  • 12% have sent nude pictures because they felt pressured into it.

While the trend of sharing sexting messages, pictures and videos with others without consent is on the decline in recent years (visible from the graphs of sexting behaviors over time) there are some alarming numbers associated with this:

  • 17-18% of people who have engaged in sexting have later (without consent) shared the contents of those interactions with others. This means that almost 1 in 5 recipients of sext later shares it.
  • 55% of those that share the contents of a sexting message, share it with multiple people.

Other studies

There are quite a few different surveys and studies available on sexting. All show slightly diverging results.

To provide an overview, here is a table with the summative statistics of those studies.

Summary statistics for Teenage sexting%
Received sext27.4%
Send sext14.8%
Shared sext12.0%
Had sext shared8.4%

And, below the total overview of the studies on sexting among teenagers.

SourceParticipants, NMean age% maleType of sextingSexting contentsGeographic area
Baumgartner et al (2014)14,94613.4949.7SP,V,MEurope multinational
Campbell and Park (2014)55214.8852.4S,RP,VUnited States
Cox Communications (2009)65515.550S,R,SH-VPUnited States
Dake et al (2012)1,28914.5851.7SP,V,MUnited States
Dowdell et al (2011)2,07716.0344.6RPUnited States
Fleschler Peskin et al (2013)103416.3437.4S,R,SH-PP,V,MUnited States
Harris et al (2013)12316.644.7S,R,SH-PP,V,MUnited States
Houck et al (2014)41012.3453.4SP,MUnited States
Kerstens and Stol (2014)4,45313.951.2S,RP,Vthe Netherlands
Kopecký (2015)1,2371444.9SP,VCzech Republic
Kopecký (2014)21,3721444.6S,SH-VP,V,MCzech Republic
Lee et al (2016)1,6121635.7SP,VRepublic of Korea
Lee et al (2015)68315.547S,RP,VAustralia 
Lenhart (2009)80015.0753.6S,RP,VUnited States
Lippman and Campbell (2014)5114.5551S,RP,VUnited States
Livingstone and Gorzig (2014)15,61913.550RP,MEurope multinational
Marcum et al (2014)1,61715.7749.9SPUnited States
Mishna et al (2010)2,18614.545.3S-VP,MCanada 
Mitchell et al (2012)1,56014.249.7RP,VUnited States
Murray (2014)46715.9648.4S,R,SH-PP,VUnited States
O’Sullivan (2014)2691734S,RPUnited States
Patrick et al (2015)2,1141638.4S,RP,VAustralia 
Rice et al (2012)1,71415.2351.9SP,MUnited States
Rice et al (2014)84111.8651.5S,RP,MUnited States
Ricketts et al (2015)1,61715.7749SPUnited States
Schloms-Madlener (2013)1891450.6SPSouth Africa
Ševčíková (2016)17,0161649SP,V,MEurope multinational
NCPTUP (2008)16314.549SP,VUnited States
Strassberg et al (2013)60615.954.3S,RPUnited States
Temple et al (2012)94815.844.1SPUnited States
Van Ouytsel et al (2014)1,02816.6842SPBelgium 
Van Ouytsel et al (2014)32916.7139.8S,RP,VBelgium 
Vanden Abeele et al (2014)1,94315.2850.6SP,VBelgium 
Velarde (2014)635Not available53.4S,R,SH-PPUnited States
Walrave et al (2014)49816.546SP,MBelgium 
Walrave et al (2015)21716.7238.2SP,V,MBelgium 
Wolfe et al (2016)62514.7951.5RP,VUnited States
Wood et al (2015)3,17015.2750S,R,SH-VP,MEurope multinational
Ybarra and Mitchell (2014)3,71515.543.3SPUnited States
Total110,38015.1647.23S=34, R=20, SH-V=5, SH-P=4P=39, V=21, M=14
  1. The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy (2009) found that approximately 15% of teens have electronically sent, or posted online, nude or semi-nude images of themselves.
  2. The Drexel University Study (2012) found that nearly 20% of adults have sexted and that younger adults are more likely to engage in sexting behavior.
  3. The Pew Research Center Study (2012) found that 4% of cell phone owners have sent sexually explicit images of themselves to someone else and that 15% of cell phone owners have received sexually explicit images.
  4. The University of Utah Study (2017) found that sexting is a common behavior among young adults and that sexting is associated with higher levels of sexual behavior and risky sexual behavior.
  5. Other studies have found that sexting can lead to regret and can have legal, social, and psychological consequences.
  6. Some studies have also found that sexting can be used as a form of cyberbullying, especially when the images are shared without consent.

Some studies have even looked more into the effects and consequences of sexting amongst both adults and teens:

  1. The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (2015) found that sexting is associated with a higher likelihood of sexual behaviors among adolescents.
  2. The University of New Hampshire (2015) found that sexting is prevalent among college students and is associated with higher rates of sexual behavior.
  3. The Crimes Against Children Research Center (2010) found that a significant number of youth have been involved in both sending and receiving sexually explicit images.
  4. The University of Michigan (2015) found that sexting is a common behavior among young adults and that it is associated with higher levels of sexual satisfaction.
  5. The Yale University School of Medicine (2015) found that sexting is a common behavior among young adults and is associated with risky sexual behavior.

These studies show that sexting is a prevalent behavior among young adults and is associated with a range of sexual behaviors and outcomes. It is important for individuals to understand the potential consequences of sexting and to make informed decisions about their involvement in this behavior.


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