University of Oulu

Heidi Hartikainen, Afsaneh Razi, and Pamela Wisniewski. 2021. Safe Sexting: The Advice and Support Adolescents Receive from Peers regarding Online Sexual Risks. Proc. ACM Hum.-Comput. Interact. 5, CSCW1, Article 42 (April 2021), 31 pages. DOI:

Safe sexting : the advice and support adolescents receive from peers regarding online sexual risks

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Author: Hartikainen, Heidi1,2; Razi, Afsaneh1; Wisniewski, Pamela1
Organizations: 1University of Central Florida, USA
2University of Oulu, Finland
Format: article
Version: accepted version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 0.6 MB)
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Language: English
Published: Association for Computing Machinery, 2021
Publish Date: 2021-05-26


The internet facilitates opportunities for adolescents to form relationships and explore their sexuality but seeking intimacy online has also become a stressor. As a result, adolescents often turn to the internet to seek support concerning issues related to sex because of its accessibility, interactivity, and anonymity. We analyzed 3,050 peer comments and 1,451 replies from adolescents (837 posts) who sought advice and/or support about online sexual experiences involving known others. We found peers mostly provided information and emotional support. They gave advice on how to handle negative online sexual experiences and mitigate their long-term repercussions, often based on their own negative experiences. They provided emotional support by letting teens know that they were not alone and should not blame themselves. A key implication of these findings is that these situations seemingly occurred regularly and youth were converging on a subset of norms about how to handle such situations in a way that supported one another. Yet, in some cases, they also resorted to victim-blaming or retaliating against those who broke these norms of “safe” sexting. Teens were grateful for emotional support and advice that helped them engage safely but were defensive when peers were critical of their relationships. Together, our findings suggest that youth are self-organizing to converge on guidelines and norms around safe sexting but have trouble framing their messages so that they are more readily accepted. In our paper, we contribute to the adolescent online safety literature by identifying youth-focused beliefs about safe sexting by analyzing the ways in which online peers give advice and support. We provide actionable recommendations for facilitating the exchange of positive advice and support via online peer-support platforms.

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Series: Proceedings of the ACM on human-computer interaction
ISSN: 2573-0142
ISSN-E: 2573-0142
ISSN-L: 2573-0142
Article number: 42
DOI: 10.1145/3449116
Host publication: Proceedings of the ACM on Human Computer Interaction (HCI), April 2021
Host publication editor: Nichols, Jeffrey
Conference: ACM Conference on Computer Supported Cooperative Work and Social Computing
Type of Publication: A4 Article in conference proceedings
Field of Science: 520 Other social sciences
616 Other humanities
113 Computer and information sciences
Funding: This research is partially supported by the U.S. National Science Foundation under grants IIP-1827700 and IIS-1844881 and by the William T. Grant Foundation grant #187941.
Copyright information: © 2021 Copyright is held by the owner/author(s). Publication rights licensed to ACM. This is the author's version of the work. It is posted here for your personal use. Not for redistribution. The definitive Version of Record was published in Proceedings of the ACM on Human Computer Interaction (HCI), April 2021,