High school students who discussed condoms
or another form of birth control via text or other technology were almost four
times as likely to use condoms when they had sex, a new study shows.
"Not all technology use is necessarily
harmful," the study's lead author, Laura Widman, told Reuters Health.
"Although prior research and media
attention have focused on the risks of technology use – like sexting, we found
that adolescents might also use electronic tools to communicate about ways they
might promote their sexual health," she said.
Widman studies adolescent sexuality at the
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. "It's not all about risky behaviour.
It might be another way that teens can have these conversations that can be a
little bit awkward," she said.
Read: Sexting do's and don'ts
Consistent use of condoms
Widman and her colleagues studied 176 US
high school juniors and seniors. Of the 64 who reported being sexually active,
more than half admitted failing to consistently use condoms, the researchers
wrote in the Journal of Adolescent Health.
Those numbers were in line with 2011
federal Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) statistics. While 47% of
US high school students reported having sex, 40 percent of those said they did
not use a condom the last time.
In the current study, students who texted
or used other private electronic technology to discuss either condoms or other
forms of birth control were nearly four times as likely to use the
Read: Sexting is common in serial cheaters
The odds of consistently using condoms more
than doubled among students who reported discussing pregnancy or sexual limits
with technology, the study found, although that result could have been due to
chance."The technology as an intermediary may alter behaviour,"
cyber-privacy expert Mark Rasch told Reuters Health.
"In this case, it seems to be altering
it for the good," he said." It could also alter it for the
bad." Rasch, who was not involved in the current study, has examined the
dark side of digital communication as a former federal computer-crime
prosecutor and now runs Rasch Technology and Cyberlaw.
More than nine million US adolescents a
year are diagnosed with sexually transmitted infections, according to the CDC.
Research over the past 20 years shows that
teenagers who communicate face to face with their sexual partners about condoms
and other birth control are more likely to use condoms, Widman said.
Read: 'Sexting' common in young people
The American Academy of Paediatrics
Committee on Adolescence recently called for high schools to dispense condoms
along with providing sex education.
Widman called for more studies to explore a
link between technology and teen condom use. "Using technology is another
avenue young people have for communicating about difficult or potentially
embarrassing topics, including sexual health," she said. "We need to
understand this much better than we do now."
Are teens condomising?
Sexting: are your kids doing it?
Condoms used by teens, not adults
Teens should have access to cheap condoms