Young Love "Locked Down:" Adolescent and Young Adult Perspectives on Sexting During the Covid-19 Pandemic in England.
There were limited opportunities for in-person social, intimate, and sexual interactions in England during 2020-2021, due to restrictions imposed by the UK government in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. While previous studies examined the effects of lockdown on intimate relationships, there is less qualitative research regarding young people's perspectives on and experiences of digitally mediated intimacy (sexting) during the period. This paper discusses findings from focus groups with 80 adolescents and interviews with 38 young adults that explored the topic. Analysis identified a normalization of non-consensual distribution of intimate images within adolescent peer culture and a reluctance to report or intervene in response to incidents of non-consensual distribution that are witnessed or experienced. The adolescent girls and young adult women also described other forms of unwanted and invasive image-sharing and requests for images. Young adults held various perspectives on sexting during lockdown, with some describing sexting as unfulfilling and/or "risky" and others sharing experiences of using sexting to generate intimacy and, among some, engaging in unwanted sexting with partners. By considering both adolescent and young adult perspectives obtained through focus groups and interviews, the study highlighted how group-level norms and meanings surrounding the risks and rewards of sexting may be reproduced or reworked as individuals transition from adolescence to young adulthood. The study underscores the need to support adolescents and young adults in cultivating healthy digital sexual cultures and interpersonal relationships.
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