OMG! Smartphone Sex Risk for Teens

Teenagers and their phones!  As any parent or indeed observer of human life knows, the mobile phone has become the most important adolescent accessoryTexting has even taken over from talking as their preferred form of communication. 72% of all teens and 88% of teen cell phone users text-message at least once a day.

And while they may not all rival world record texter, Fred Lidgren, who sent 566,607 text messages during a one month period, I know several who are not far behind. And for those of you still doing the math, yes that’s a staggering 18,887 texts per day or 787 per hour or 13 texts each minute. LOL!

Not only does smartphone use kill the art of conversation, it has a decidedly most sinister side-effect.  According to new research just presented at the American Public Health Association meeting, smartphone use among teens is associated with an increased likelihood of being solicited for sex and having sex with an internet-met partner.

According to a 2011 survey among almost two thousand Los Angeles high school students, young people with smartphones are one and a half times as likely to report being sexually active, almost two times as likely to have been approached online for sex, and more than twice as likely to engage in sex with an Internet-met partner compared with those who do not access the internet on their cell phones.

Additionally, those being solicited online for sex are also found to be engaging in unprotected sex. Five percent of the participants reported using the Internet to seek sex partners and 17% of the participants reported being approached online for sex by someone they did not know.

We, parents, health educators, physicians, must recognize that cell phones are yet another new way for adolescents to meet sex partners,” said researcher Hailey Winetrobe, MPH. “Parents and school health professionals should talk to their teens about being safe in meeting people online and in using condoms to prevent sexually transmitted infections and unplanned pregnancies.”

While we’re not suggesting that parents take their teenagers cell phones away, maybe it’s time to put those smartphones to good use and create apps and websites for adolescent-targeted sexual health programs.

What do you think?

A Big “Clap” for the FDA

Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) have always been a bit of a taboo subject.  Especially it seems among the FDA.   In a joint initiative with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the Agency has just sent warning letters to more than a dozen companies selling non-prescription products that claim to treat STD’s such as herpes, chlamydia, genital warts, HIV, and AIDS.

Despite names such as Medavir, Herpaflor, Never An Outbreak and C-Cure, the FDA says that none of the products have been proven to prevent, treat or cure any disease.  In fact, say FDA scientists, the products are a public health hazard because patients could waste time taking them and delay seeking medical care.

A full list of the companies and products involved can be found here.

These products, sold both online and in retail outlets, often claim to be supported by research. A website for Medavir, made claims the product “has been proven effective in several official university research studies, including an official FDA trial.”

Similarly, Arenvy Laboratories’ website for ImmuneGlory touts the product as “the ultimate herpes outbreak solution” and claims the product “strengthens your immune system so that herpes or cold sores have nowhere to hide.”

However, the Agency says that is has never approved any non-prescription products for sexually transmitted diseases.  Drugs are available for herpes, chlamydia, HIV and other diseases, but only via prescription.

These products are dangerous because they are targeted to patients with serious conditions, where treatment options proven to be safe and effective are available,” said Deborah Autor, FDA Director of Drug Compliance.

Companies cited by the FDA will have 15 days to take their products off the market. If they do not, the agency can take legal action, including seizing products and taking company officials to court.

Additionally, under the FTC Act it is illegal to make such unsubstantiated treatment claims.

These companies are on notice that advertising health benefits that are not supported by rigorous scientific evidence violates the FTC Act,” said David Vladeck, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “They also should know that health scams that endanger public health will not be tolerated.”

While we wait with baited breath to see if the companies will comply, Word on Health cautions its readers that appropriate treatment of STDs can only occur under the supervision of a health care professional.