Interventions Using New Digital Media to Improve Adolescent Sexual Health: A Systematic Review


      New digital media (e.g., the Internet, text messaging, and social networking sites [SNS]) have dramatically altered the communication landscape, especially for youth. These communication platforms present new tools for engaging youth in sexual health promotion and risk reduction. We searched eight public databases across multiple disciplines for all peer-reviewed studies published between January 2000 and May 2011 that empirically evaluated the impact of digital media-based interventions on the sexual health knowledge, attitudes, and/or behaviors of adolescents aged 13–24 years. Of 942 abstracts, 10 met inclusion criteria. Seven studies were conducted in the United States. Eight described Web-based interventions, one used mobile phones, and one was conducted on an SNS. Two studies significantly delayed initiation of sex, and one was successful in encouraging users of an SNS to remove sex references from their public profile. Seven interventions significantly influenced psychosocial outcomes such as condom self-efficacy and abstinence attitudes, but at times the results were in directions unexpected by the study authors. Six studies increased knowledge of HIV, sexually transmitted infections, or pregnancy. This area of research is emerging and rapidly changing. More data from controlled studies with longer (>1 year) follow-up and measurement of behavioral outcomes will provide a more robust evidence base from which to judge the effectiveness of new digital media in changing adolescent sexual behavior.


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