Clues to teens' sexual intentions are on 'the wall'

Profiles hold the key

New research suggests that display of sexual references on teens’ Facebook profiles is associated with their intention to initiate intercourse.

“Parents and physicians are often seeking clues for when it’s time to have ‘the talk’ about sex with a teenager,” said Megan A Moreno of University of Wisconsin-Madison who co-authored the study with Dimitri A Christakis of the Seattle Children’s Research Institute.

“Our study suggests that if sexual content is noted on a teenager’s social networking site profile, it’s definitely time for that talk,” Moreno
added.

Moreno’s team previously found that 54 per cent of MySpace profiles contained high-risk behaviour information, with 24 per cent referencing sexual behaviour.

Risk behaviours

The researchers hypothesised that these displays may represent involvement in risk behaviours or consideration of risk behaviours.

In the current study, researchers investigated what sexual displays on social networking sites represent in the offline world.

They identified publicly available Facebook profiles of college freshmen, 85 of whom completed a survey measuring sexual experiences, risky sexual behaviour, and for those not yet sexually active, sexual intention.

Researchers found a strong association between display of sexual references on Facebook and self-reported intention to initiate sexual intercourse, said a University of Wisconsin-Madison release.

The authors concluded that social networking sites present innovative opportunities for clinicians, educators and parents to identify adolescents who may benefit from targeted education regarding safe sex practices prior to sexual initiation.

The study will be presented at the Paediatric Academic Societies (PAS) annual meeting in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.

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