A quarter of American teenagers say they’ve sexted at least once during the past couple of months, with girls feeling particularly pressured to share sexually explicit images by cell phone.

Investigators surveyed 498 teenagers ages 15-18 to assess attitudes toward sexting. They found that young people most commonly choose to sext based on pressure from a romantic partner or perceived social pressure from peers. In these decisions, parents and teachers had absolutely no influence, as teenagers also failed to consider possible negative outcomes from engaging in sexting--such as blackmail or harassment.

“Remarkably, only the behavioural beliefs that expected positive outcomes of sexting were significant in predicting adolescents’ willingness to engage in it,” the authors said in a statement. Adolescents were most likely to engage in sexting when they felt they shared “complete trust” in their electronic partner--the recipient. In making the decision, young people were most swayed by positive influence from peers and romantic partners, with fear of parental monitoring not a significant worry to teenage cell phone users.

Investigators also confirmed that adolescents sext based less on subjective motivations but perceived social pressure from romantic partners. Girls said they felt more pressured than boys to share sexually explicit images. “Our results suggest that in order to reduce sexting among adolescents, preventive initiatives should allude to what significant others in teenagers’ lives think about them engaging in sexting,” the investigators wrote.

More specifically, the investigators advise educators and political policymakers to raise awareness about teenage sexting by including the topic in sexual education classes, among other opportunities for group discussions teaching young people to cope with peer pressure.

Source: Walrave, Michel. Heirman, Wannes, Hallam, Lara. Under Pressure To Sext? Applying The Theory Of Planned Behavior To Adolescent Sexting. Behavior & Information Technology. 2013.