HOUSTON - New research suggests teens with smartphones are more likely to be involved in risky sexually behavior, which includes meeting up with people they meet online using their phones.
According to researchers with the University of Southern California, not only are a third of teens using smartphones, but they're one and a half times more likely than non-smartphone users to be sexually active.
The study surveyed about 1,800 kids ages 12 to 18 in the Los Angeles Public School District.
Many of them are from middle and low income homes.
They found 47 percent of the smartphone users said they were sexually active compared to 35 percent who don't own smartphones.
Seventeen percent of smartphone users admitted to having sex with someone they met online compared to 14 percent of kids without.
Researchers said the results should be a wake-up call for parents.
Amy Birchill Lavergne, executive director of the Nick Finnegan Counseling Center told Local 2, "If you're going to give them this piece of equipment, you should start out by saying, 'Here are the rules for it. Here's how I want you to behave with it.' But, also educating them about the real dangers."
She said she also believes the study is not so much cause and effect, but rather shows that smartphones give teens unprecedented access.
She added, "I think that people should absolutely use parental controls to the extent that they can technologically because kids still need those external inhibitors. They don't have enough of the internal, so they need parents to put controls on them at appropriate levels and release those controls as they demonstrate maturity."
Birchill Lavergne also advises parents to be aware of the signs their child may be engaging in inappropriate behavior.
She explained, "If they are more withdrawn than they were before or if they're more outgoing in a way that seems dangerous or risky to you. I think if teenagers are doing badly in school where before they had a good record. Just those big marked changes that show there's something going on."
The study also found homosexual teens were five times more likely than their heterosexual peers to seek sex partners online.
Many of the teens in the study report engaging in unprotected sex.
The study findings are being presented at the annual meeting of the American Public Health Association.
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