A new study has just been published which shows that teens with smartphones are more likely to have sex and meet people online for sex than those who have regular non-internet connected phones. The study is not without its critics, with some saying that the study doesn’t make it clear if smartphones are influencing teens’ sexual behavior. One critic straight up called the study conclusions weak.
Study co-author Eric Rice, assistant professor at the School of Social Work at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, thinks there is definitely a connection between having smartphones and having sex. He also said that a smartphone is “one of the tools that risk-taking teens are going to use to take risks.”
The researchers relied on 1,800 surveys of high school students from Los Angeles public schools. A full one-third of the students who were surveyed had smartphones. Smartphones are classified as a mobile device that also has access to text messaging and the internet. Of that one-third, 47 percent were sexually active. Of those surveyed without smartphones, only 35 percent of them were sexually active.
Seventeen percent of the smartphone users said they had had sex with someone they met online compared to 14 percent of kids without smartphones.
“You can get online relatively unsupervised and look for sex partners or have sex partners look for you.”
The study left out a lot of details which critics say could have given them a higher level of validity. The study did not ask students about whether that looked for sex online or visited sites to find sex. They also didn’t prove whether sexually active kids are more drawn to smartphones or the opposite, that those kids with smartphones being more drawn to sexual activity.
David Finkelhor, director of the University of New Hampshire’s Crimes Against Children Research Center, questioned the findings saying:
“Youth with smartphones could be having more sex for many reasons that have nothing to do with smartphones. I would be willing to bet that youth with cars are more likely to have sex too. This research is sure to be misinterpreted as an argument for limiting smartphone access.”
The study is scheduled for release Tuesday at the American Public Health Association’s annual meeting in San Francisco.