18 March 2019

‘Let’s talk about sexting’

“Sexting is not all bad,” says Gaby de Lijster. She has studied the effects of two educational programmes on boundary-pushing sexual behaviour. De Lijster received her PhD on this research at Maastricht University on Valentine's Day.

The effects

Before their educational programme, immediately afterwards and six months later, the participating students were asked about their intentions and ideas regarding sexually oriented interactions with others. Clear effects were found for ‘Benzies & Batchies’; immediately following the programme, the young people said that they wanted to start exhibiting less sexually suggestive behaviour. Six months later, they felt stronger on their own two feet in terms of peer pressure in this context and had ‘increased sexual self-esteem’. “So, they know better what they want and don't want and are more resilient. That is a nice result and is one of the first times that this type of educational programme has been shown to have a measurable effect.”

The message: talk to each other without judging

One of the reasons that this is so difficult to research scientifically is the rapidly changing media culture. “When I started eight and a half years ago, for example, Hyves was still very popular. While conducting research, scientists are confronted by the reality that it’s almost impossible to keep up with this.” Although it is constantly changing, the hope that social media will die out one day is in vain, De Lijster emphasises. “So parents, teachers and other caretakers must empathise with the experience of teenagers. They don’t have to be okay with everything, but talking to each other without immediately judging is extremely important. We have a duty to guide young people in this.”

By: Femke Kools