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Young adults sexting survey has 'alarming results'

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: January 12, 2012

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Worrying numbers of young people are turning online contacts into real life sexual relationships, according to a survey conducted by a leading Westcountry academic.

Professor Andy Phippen, from the University of Plymouth, has carried out a number of studies looking at how technology has impacted on relationships.

His research has ranged from the online abuse of teachers by "cyber bullying students" to the growing trend of "sexting" – the practice of sending explicit images and video film electronically – among youngsters.

Now a survey of 16 to 24-year-olds has revealed that one-in-ten have made contact with people online and then subsequently met them in the "physical" world to have casual sex.

Prof Phippen said the results "raised some fairly alarming issues" about young people's sexual health as well as the other risks they were potentially exposing themselves to.

"On the one hand they are above the age of consent," he said. "But they are fairly young, may be naive and may not be as savvy as they think they are."

The study also revealed that 80 per cent of the respondents aged 16-24 had used a smartphone or the web for sexual purposes.

Prof Phippen said they were concerns that had arisen out of a largely positive response about the role of technology in relationships.

The study found 88 per cent of the 16 24-year-olds agreed or strongly agreed that technology has had a positive impact on their relationship. More than half of the respondents felt that online activities formed a regular part of interaction in a relationship (60 per cent) and were an important part of forming new relationships (52 per cent).

However, almost half of those surveyed agreed that online interaction could damage "offline" relationships.

"This survey is the first of its kind and provides us with brand new data on how young adults use technology in their intimate lives," Prof Phippen added.

"This is just the beginning and there is still lots of research to be done in this area. However initial results suggest that young people feel technology is having a positive effect on their relationships."

Titled The Use of Technology in Relationships, the study was conducted in association with the UK Safer Internet Centre, and was based on 850 self-selecting individuals reporting their ages as between 16-24.

The results were revealed less than a week after an inquest into the death of troubled 15-year-old Simone Grice, from Illogan, near Redruth, heard she had been meeting older men for sex after contacting them online. The coroner ruled she killed herself.

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