Sexting and Risky Sexual Behaviour among Students in Machakos University, Machakos County, Kenya
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Progressively, the digital world has certainly modified the sharing of information and social interactions and as a result, the virtual world has become commonplace in people’s lives, especially for the younger populace. What's more, young people have embraced the space for learning, exchange of new ideas, seeking information on any subject, and also for socializing with their peers. Sexting is the digital recording of nude or sexually suggestive or explicit images and their distribution by mobile phone messaging or through social networking platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat. The objective of the study was to investigate sexting and identify the risky sexual behaviors associated with sexting among students at Machakos University. The study adopted a descriptive cross-sectional study design. The target sample was 347 students aged 18-24 years at Machakos University. Convenience sampling was adopted for the selection of respondents for quantitative data and purposive sampling for qualitative data as well as the study area. Interviewer-administered questionnaires were utilized in gathering quantitative data while in-depth interviews facilitated the qualitative data collection. Data for the study were analyzed using descriptive statistics to describe the socio-demographic characteristics, sexting practice, prevalence, motivation for sexting, and the relationship between sexting and risky sexual behavior. A Chi-square test was carried out to identify variables associated with sexting and the odds ratio to measure the association between sexting and risky sexual behavior. The IBM SPSS version 26.0 was used for data analysis. Additionally, thematic analysis was used to analyze the qualitative data. Overall Sexting prevalence was 57% and the sexting prevalence of 48% for two-way sexters. Male respondents engaged more in sexting as compared to female respondents at 67%and 33% respectively. Essentially, students sexted to keep or get a boy/girlfriend (23%). Accordingly, students engaged in risky sexual behaviors with 74% having had sexual intercourse out of which 54% used no protection. Altogether sexting and risky sexual behavior were found to be associated with P= .000, and an odds ratio of 8.271, the perception of whether sexting leads to having sex with the person (P= .000), and an odds ratio of 6.939. In conclusion, sexting was prevalent among Machakos university students, and getting or keeping a relationship partner emerged as a key motivation for sexting although a sizeable number indicated no reason for engaging in sexting. Most students were involved in risky sexual behaviors like sexual intercourse without protection and there was a very high likelihood to engage in risky sexual behavior if one was sexting. The study recommends that the Ministry of Higher Education design programs in consultation with the students centered around how the students can utilize their smartphones, social platforms, and availability of the internet to learn about the benefits and dangers of sexting, the potential short and long term consequences associated with sexting, ways to reduce or avoid sexting, and ways to utilize sexting for sexual health promotion.