Smartphones likely aren't directly causing risky teen sex, said study researcher Eric Rice, of the University of Southern California's School of Social Work in Los Angeles. Rather, smartphones may make it easier for teens to arrange sexual encounters, Rice said.
"It's a tool through which this sort of behavior can happen," Rice said.
While parents have come up with strategies to monitor the online behavior of their kids on computers, "I don't know that we've thought through quite as clearly what it means for teens to have the Internet on their phones 24 hours a day," Rice said.
Rice said sex education programs should start to include discussions regarding the risks of seeking sex online. In addition, parents should use this as an opportunity to begin a discussion with their teen about sexual health and use of technology, he said.
"I don't want parents to freak out," Rice said.
This new research follows a recent study that found that teens who "sext" or send sexually suggestive text messages, are 7 times more likely to be sexually active.
Image: Teen on smartphone, via Shutterstock