This recent headline from NBC News, “Teens who use smartphones may engage in more sex,” was certainly an eye-catcher. And it preys upon the fears of parents out there who are already worried about the millions of Facebooking, texting and smartphone-using teens out there whose behavior they can’t monitor 24/7.
But is there any truth to this alarming statement?
The study that this is based on looked at responses from 1,800 high school students aged 12-18 in Los Angeles-based public school. Here is some of the data that was collected:
- One-third of the students owned smartphones, such as iPhones and Blackberries, that provide access to the Internet and software apps in addition to text-messaging and camera capabilities that are basic on many cell phones.
- Forty-seven percent of these students said they were sexually active, compared to 35 percent of those who didn't own smartphones.
- Seventeen percent of the smartphone users said they had had sex with someone they met online, compared to 14 percent of kids without smartphones.
- Five percent said they used the Internet to seek sex partners, and 17 percent said they had been approached for sex online.
Eric Rice from the University of Southern California’s School of Social Work and co-author of the study is quoted in the NBC News piece that “Smartphones likely aren't directly causing risky teen sex,” and that he doesn’t want parents to “freak out.” But rather is finding that smartphones are “tools in which this sort of behavior can happen.”
Yes, by using a smartphone, teens (and anyone for that matter) certainly have access to the far reaches of the Internet. But using a smartphone alone does not mean that they will automatically start engaging in sexual relations, or more of it.
So while you probably don’t have to cut off your teens’ Internet services just yet, this study is a good reminder to keep having the discussion about Internet usage with them and keeping those lines of communication wide open.
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