Sydney: A landmark study of Australian high school students' sexual habits has revealed that ''sexting'' online and via mobile phone is so widespread experts are urging parents to accept it as a form of ''modern day courtship''.
The La Trobe University study shows more than 70 percent of sexually active year 10 to 12 students have sent explicit text messages, 84 percent have received them and more than half have sent naked or semi-nude photos or videos of themselves, the Sydney Morning Herald reported.
Despite fears the increasing use of technology is encouraging early promiscuity, the report reveals the rate of intercourse is actually dropping as more teens choose to wait.
Conducted every four to five years, and considered the most accurate snapshot of youth sexual behaviour, the fifth National Survey of Australian Secondary Students and Sexual Health found 23 percent of year 10 students and 50 percent of year 12s have had sex, compared with 27 percent and 56 percent, respectively, in the 2008 poll.
Almost 70 percent cent are sexually active in some way - having experienced oral sex, deep kissing or genital touching - down from 78 percent in the last survey.
Commissioned by the federal Department of Health and used to inform sexual health policy, it shows almost 90 per cent of 16 to 18-year-olds use social media such as Facebook, Twitter or Instagram every day, with one in five saying they use the sites for sexual purposes.
Some 54 per cent of all those surveyed have received sexually explicit written text messages, 42 per cent have received explicit, nude or nearly nude photos or videos and 25 per cent have sent such images or videos. Among sexually active students, more than 66 per cent are engaging in sexting.
Lead author Anne Mitchell, who has conducted the study since 1992, urged caution, saying that despite fears a sexualised, digital culture was increasing pressure on young people to have sex before they were ready, the proportion having unwanted sex last year - due to pressure from partners, friends or being frightened or drunk - had fallen from 32 percent in 2008 to 25 percent.