Australia's government urged young people not to join the "sexting" craze on Wednesday, warning that sending provocative images by mobile phone could have "very bad long-term consequences".

Minister for the Status of Women Tanya Plibersek expressed concerns over a rising "raunch culture phenomenon", adding it was a part of youth culture that "completely passes adults by".

"Things like people filming sexual assaults on mobile phones ... taking pornographic pictures ... and passing them around," she said during a debate on women's issues at the National Press Club in Canberra.

"The fact that those decisions are made in such a public way, on the Internet or circulated on mobile phones, means that they last forever," Plibersek added.

She said the government was preparing an online public education campaign aimed at building respectful relationships among young people.

A recent study by the Pew Research Center found 15 percent of US youths aged 12 to 17 have received nude or nearly nude images of someone they know.