One in five US teens has sent nude or partially clothed images of themselves to someone by email or mobile phone and twice as many have sent sexually suggestive electronic messages, a poll showed Wednesday.
And American youngsters aged 13-19 are having tech-sex despite a majority of them saying it could have "serious negative consequences" on them, the survey commissioned by the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy (NCTUP) showed.
More than half of the 1,280 teens and young adults up to age 26 who took part in the online poll, conducted in September and October, said they had received a sexually suggestive message from someone else -- and one in five said they had shared the racy message with a third person.
Eight in 10 teens said they would be concerned about sending a sexy image of themselves or racy message because they "might regret it later," while nearly 70 percent said they were worried it could "disappoint family."
Where teen tech-sex gives real rise to concern among adults, said NCTUP, is that more than one-third of teens (38 percent) say exchanging sexy content makes dating or physical sex with others more likely, and three in 10 say those who exchange sexually suggestive content are "expected to hook up."
"That so many young people say technology is encouraging an even more casual, hook-up culture is reason for concern, given the high rates of teen and unplanned pregnancy in the United States," said Marisa Nightingale, senior advisor to NCTUP.
Although teen pregnancy and birth rates in the United States have dropped by one-third since the 1990s, they remain high compared to other developed countries and carry high costs to the teens involved, their children and society, NCPTUP said in a report published last year.
"The US birth rate of 41 per 1,000 in 2004 was much higher than Canada's 14 (in 2003), England and Wales' 27 (the highest rate in Western Europe), Japan's six and the Netherlands' five (the lowest rate in Western Europe)," said NCTUP's "Emerging Answers" report, published in November 2007.
More than 30 percent of girls in the United States become pregnant before they reach age 20, and many become pregnant a second time before their 20th birthday, according to NCTUP.
According to the Guttmacher Institute, nearly half of all 15- to 19-year-olds in the United States have had sex at least once.