Teens with smartphones are more likely to have sex and meet others online for sex than teens without Internet access on their phones, according to a new study.

But it's not clear if the smartphone actually influences teenagers' sexual activity or whether sexual activity influences smarphone use, and at least one critic of the research called the study weak.

Still, the smartphone is "one of the tools that risk-taking teens are going to use to take risks," said study co-author Eric Rice, assistant professor at the School of Social Work at the University of Southern California, in Los Angeles. And he thinks there's "definitely a connection" between having the phones and having sex.

For the study, the researchers surveyed more than 1,800 high school students aged 12 to 18 from Los Angeles public schools.

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, Rice said.

The study also doesn't prove that smartphones and sexual activity are connected, or look at whether being sexually active might make kids more likely to use smartphones rather than the other way around.

David Finkelhor, director of the University of New Hampshire's Crimes Against Children Research Center, questioned the findings.

"Youth with smartphones could be having more sex for many reasons that have nothing to do with smartphones," he said. "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."

Source: U.S. News & World Report
http://health.usnews.com/health-news/news/articles/2012/10/30/smartphones-linked-to-sexual-activity-in-teens-study