Exposure to Sexually Explicit Web Sites and Adolescent Sexual Attitudes and Behaviors



      Mass media play an important role in the socialization of youth. Given its expanding nature and accessibility, the Internet may be at the forefront of this education. However, the extent of the Internet's impact on adolescent sexual attitudes and behaviors is not yet known.


      A total of 433 adolescents completed an anonymous survey at a health center in New York City. The cross-sectional survey assessed Internet accessibility, exposure to sexually explicit Web sites (SEWs), sexual behaviors, and sexually permissive attitudes.


      Of the participants, 96% had Internet access, and 55.4% reported ever visiting a SEW. Logistic regression analyses revealed that adolescents exposed to SEWs were more likely to have multiple lifetime sexual partners (OR=1.8, CI=1.2, 2.9), to have had more than one sexual partner in the last 3 months (OR=1.8, CI=1.1, 3.1), to have used alcohol or other substances at last sexual encounter (OR=2.8, CI=1.5, 5.2), and to have engaged in anal sex (OR=2.0, CI=1.2, 3.4). Adolescents who visit SEWs display higher sexual permissiveness scores compared with those who have never been exposed (2.3 vs. 1.9, p ≤ .001), indicating a more permissive attitude.


      Exposure to Internet pornography has potential implications for adolescent sexual relationships, such as number of partners and substance use. SEWs can serve an educational purpose and create an opportunity for adults to engage adolescents in discussions about sexual health and consumption of Internet material. Longitudinal research is needed to evaluate how exposure to SEWs influences youth attitudes and sexual behaviors.


      To read this article in full you will need to make a payment

      Purchase one-time access:

      Academic & Personal: 24 hour online accessCorporate R&D Professionals: 24 hour online access
      One-time access price info
      • For academic or personal research use, select 'Academic and Personal'
      • For corporate R&D use, select 'Corporate R&D Professionals'


      Subscribe to Journal of Adolescent Health
      Already a print subscriber? Claim online access
      Already an online subscriber? Sign in
      Institutional Access: Sign in to ScienceDirect


        • Strasburger V.C.
        Go ahead punk, make my day: It's time for pediatricians to take action against media violence.
        Pediatrics. 2007; 119: e1398-e1399
      1. Roberts DF, Foehr UG, Rideout, V. Generation M: Media in the lives of 8–18 year olds. Menlo Park, CA: The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, 2005. Available at:

        • Escobar-Chaves S.L.
        • Tortolero S.R.
        • Markham C.M.
        • et al.
        Impact of the media on adolescent sexual attitudes and behaviors.
        Pediatrics. 2005; 116: 303-326
        • Borzekowski D.L.
        Adolescents' use of the Internet: A controversial, coming–of–age resource.
        Adolesc Med Clin. 2006; 17: 205-216
        • Anderson C.A.
        • Berkowitz L.
        • Donnerstein E.
        • et al.
        The influence of media violence on youth.
        Psychol Sci Public Interest. 2003; 4: 81-110
        • Martinez-Gonzalez M.A.
        • Gual P.
        • Lahortiga F.
        • et al.
        Parental factors, mass media influences, and the onset of eating disorders in a prospective population-based cohort.
        Pediatrics. 2003; 111: 315-320
        • Strasburger V.C.
        Alcohol advertising and adolescents.
        Pediatr Clin North Am. 2002; 49: 353-376
        • Sargent J.D.
        • Dalton M.A.
        • Beach M.
        Exposure to cigarette promotions and smoking uptake in adolescents: Evidence of a dose–response relationship.
        Tob Control. 2000; 9: 163-168
        • Brown J.D.
        • Witherspoon E.M.
        The mass media and American adolescents' health.
        J Adolesc Health. 2002; 31: 153-170
      2. Rideout V. Generation How young people use the Internet for health information. Menlo Park, CA: The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, 2001. Available at:

        • Borzekowski D.L.
        • Rickert V.I.
        Adolescent cybersurfing for health information: A new resource that crosses barriers.
        Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2001; 155: 813-817
        • Brown J.D.
        • Newcomer S.F.
        Television viewing and adolescents' sexual behavior.
        J Homosex. 1991; 21: 77-91
        • Brown J.D.
        Media literacy has potential to improve adolescents' health.
        J Adolesc Health. 2006; 39: 459-460
        • Collins R.L.
        • Elliott M.N.
        • Berry S.H.
        • et al.
        Watching sex on television predicts adolescent initiation of sexual behavior.
        Pediatrics. 2004; 114: e280-e289
        • Wingood G.M.
        • DiClemente R.J.
        • Harrington K.
        • et al.
        Exposure to X-rated movies and adolescents' sexual and contraceptive-related attitudes and behaviors.
        Pediatrics. 2001; 107: 1116-1119
        • Chandra A.
        • Martino S.C.
        • Collins R.L.
        • et al.
        Does watching sex on television predict teen pregnancy? Findings from a national longitudinal survey of youth.
        Pediatrics. 2008; 122: 1047-1054
        • Strasburger V.C.
        • Wilson B.J.
        Children, adolescents, and the media.
        Sage, Thousand Oaks, CA2002
        • Cameron K.A.
        • Salazar L.F.
        • Bernhardt J.M.
        • et al.
        Adolescents' experience with sex on the Web: Results from online focus groups.
        J Adolesc. 2005; 28: 535-540
      3. Horrigan, JB. Home Broadband Adoption 2008. Washington, DC: Pew Internet & Life Project, 2008. Available at:

        • American Academy of Pediatrics
        Committee on Public Education. Media violence.
        Pediatrics. 2001; 108: 1222-1226
        • Cooper A.
        • Scherer C.R.
        • Boies S.C.
        • Gordon B.L.
        Sexuality and the Internet: Surfing into the new millenium.
        CyberPsychol Behav. 1998; 1: 181-187
        • Freeman-Longo R.E.
        • Blanchard G.T.
        Sexual Abuse in America: Epidemic of the 21st Century.
        Safer Society Press, Brandon, VT1998
        • Neinstein L.S.
        Adolescent Health Care Lipincott Williams & Wilkins. A Practical Guide, Philadelophia, PA2002
        • Wolak J.
        • Mitchell K.
        • Finkelhor D.
        Unwanted and wanted exposure to online pornography in a national sample of youth Internet users.
        Pediatrics. 2007; 119: 247-257
        • Zillmann D.
        Influence of unrestrained access to erotica on adolescents' and young adults' dispositions toward sexuality.
        J Adolesc Health. 2000; 27: 41-44
        • Ybarra M.L.
        • Mitchell K.J.
        Exposure to Internet pornography among children and adolescents: A national survey.
        CyberPsych Behav. 2005; 8: 473-486
        • Peter J.
        • Valkenburg P.M.
        Adolescents' exposure to a sexualized media environment and their notions of women as sexual objects.
        Sex Roles. 2007; 56: 381-395
        • Lo V.
        • Wei R.
        Exposure to Internet pornography and Taiwanese adolescents' sexual attitudes and behavior.
        J Broadcast Electron Media. 2005; 49: 221-237
      4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 2005 National Youth Risk Behavior Survey Data Users Manual. Available at:

        • Hendrick C.
        • Hendrick S.S.
        • Reich D.A.
        The brief sexual attitudes scale.
        J Sex Res. 2006; 43: 76-86
        • Carroll J.S.
        • Padilla-Walker L.M.
        • Nelson L.J.
        • et al.
        Generation XXX: Pornography acceptance and use among emerging adults.
        J Adolesc Res. 2008; 23: 6-30
        • Goodson P.
        • McCormick D.
        • Evans A.
        Searching for sexually explicit materials on the Internet: An exploratory study of college students' behavior and attitudes.
        Arch Sex Behav. 2001; 30: 101-118
        • Mitchell K.J.
        • Wolak J.
        • Finkelhor D.
        Trends in youth reports of sexual solicitation, harassment and unwanted exposure to pornography on the Internet.
        J Adolesc Health. 2007; 40: 116-126
        • Peter J.
        • Valkenburg P.M.
        Adolescents' exposure to sexually explicit material on the Internet.
        Commun Res. 2006; 33: 178-204
        • Rogala C.
        • Tyden T.
        Does pornography influence young women's sexual behavior?.
        Women's Health Issues. 2003; 13: 39-43
        • Reisberg L.
        Academy begins drive to teach youth media matters.
        AAP News. 1997; 13: 25