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Social media sustains young
Sexting is not always cause for concern. Picture: Bill Hatto/The West Australian

WA's young are more connected than ever, using their mobile devices for everything from social networking, shopping and gambling to reading news and sexting.

_The West Australian _ and HBF's iGeneration survey has confirmed ever-increasing usage of smartphones and social networking among the State's 18 to 30-year-olds, with 40 per cent of them saying they could not imagine their lives without social media.

"Young people take the internet with them everywhere they are going," Curtin University internet studies lecturer Tama Leaver said.

"Most will have a smartphone and not just be using it for text and conversation. They will be doing a lot of the things we take for granted now on the web and social networking is one of the biggest things.

"Facebook is almost a replacement for email these days. It's the thing you almost have to use to communicate."

The iGen survey found just 10 per cent said they did not use social networking sites, compared with 26 per cent in 2009.

More than a third of iGens spend six to 20 hours a week on sites such as Facebook and 7 per cent claim to spend more than 21 hours using them.

The survey also found a third of men and 23 per cent of women used their mobile phone for sending explicit sexual messages or images.

Dr Leaver said sexting was not necessarily a cause for concern between consenting adults. "For a lot of people their mobile devices are caught up in the entire spectrum of their lives and that includes the intimate moments," he said.

"It's by no stretch unusual to think your most intimate moments might be shared across devices as much as they might be shared when you are in the same room.

"There are some issues in that that information lingers and there would have to be a reasonable level of trust . . . but most people are cognisant this stuff won't disappear after you've sent it."