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How to safely send a digital Valentine

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Seriously: Try to choose a one-to-one way of letting your valentine know you care, and avoid doing it on social media.

By Leslie Meredith, TechNewsDaily

With just days until Valentine's Day, the surveys on how lovers connect on the year's most romantic day are pouring in. We culled the best bits to help you find the most effective (and safest) way to send a digital message to your valentine.

More than 75 percent of people said they call, text or email to communicate with significant others, according to a survey of 200 tech users conducted by Sendmail, a company that provides an open source email platform. The lesson here is to choose a one-to-one channel, not social media . None of the respondents sent a tweet to their partner, only 1 percent used Instagram or Google+, 5 percent used a video chat service like Skype and 11 percent posted to Facebook.

But the results were different when responses were broken down by age. For those under the age of 24, video chatting was their top choice, while people over the age of 54 found email most appropriate.

And forget sweet nothings — many will be sending sexy photos instead. More than a third of Americans plan to send their partner sexy or romantic photos on Valentine's Day via text, email and social media, McAfee, a security firm, said this week in its study, "Love, Relationships and Technology." But your photo may get more exposure than you're anticipating.

Related story: Ex-sweeties threatening to post your naked pics? Odds are, they'll do it, survey suggests

In a new Match.com report, more than half of male daters and 45 percent of women said they've received a "sext" (a sexual text or picture-based text message), and 23 percent have shared their sexy messages and images with three or more people. Men  don't seem to mind when women share men's photos with their friends, but if the tables are turned, nearly 90 percent of women said they'd be offended if their guy showed pictures to his friends.

That's why Cosmopolitan magazine recommends using Snapchat , a free picture-messaging app that self-destructs your photos — sexy or otherwise — after a few seconds. The venerable girl-guide also suggests taking a close-up picture that shows only a bit of cleavage or hip, so you can't be easily identified by others.

But once you've sent a photo or posted a message, your privacy is no longer guaranteed — even Snapchat photos can be captured with another phone camera or by a practiced user who can manage to grab a screenshot in a second or two. And after a break-up, the risks soar that your ex will share intimate photos. Read more: Technology Fuels Revenge of the Ex .

One last tip: Double check who you're sending your romantic message to before you tap send. About 16 percent of people in the Sendmail survey confessed they've sent sexts to the wrong person.

If you've decided to play it safe and send an old-fashioned message, try Red Stamp, a charming free app for iPhone that lets you make and send your own cards — digital and paper.

Carley Knobloch from Digitwirl shows off a variety of tech gifts, apps and websites that you can use to keep your love hot for Valentine's Day, such as a chili pad mattress cover, a hotel app with discounted rooms and Smart Candles that help set the mood in your home.

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