Same news, different story

A recent presentation at the American Public Health Association Conference reported the differences in sexual behavior between youth that have smart phones versus less sophisticated ones. in a nutshell, of the teens (from LA) surveyed, those with smartphones were more likely to have sex, have sex without a condom, meet others online for sex, and be sexually solicited than teens without Internet access on their phones,

Although most press coverage consisted of the same content, the headlines varied greatly. The US News and World Report simply stated Smartphones linked to sexual activity in teens: Dull, but to the point and accurate. Kudos as well to the New York Daily News (yes, you read that right — they did good here) for having a slightly more sensational headline, but still getting the facts right:

Teens with Smartphones are more likely to be solicited for sex via the internet

Less responsible headlines included

Lead researcher Eric Rice of USC School of Social Work did a great job of representing his work accurately and was lucky enough to be quoted well in the articles at least. I continue to hope for a day when teen sexuality is NOT used to grab attention by being portrayed in a scandalous, irresponsible manner. If we want them to be mature about their sexual decision making, the least us adults could do is set a good example for them.

The Internet May Reach Those Who Others Simply Can’t

I Want the Kit, a website that offers free chlamydia tests is only available in a few select areas (Alaska, Denver, CO, Maryland, West Virginia, Philadelphia, PA, Washington, DC and parts of Illinois), but it seems to make a big impact. About half its users are under 23 — not surprising since this is the demographic that is most at-risk for STIs, most likely to go online, and most likely to lack access to insurance and have no other place to go for health care.

A study out of Johns Hopkins found that women who sent tests into I Want the Kit had infection rates between 4-15% — positive tests mostly came from those who rarely get health check-ups and have limited or no health insurance. For comparison, 3-6% of women who get tested at family planning clinics test positive for Chlamydia infections. So, rates are higher for those who choose the online test. But that simply could be due to the age bracket — or is it something else?

Another study out of UCLA looked at the internet habits of homeless youth. They were surprised to find that almost 80% of these young people use social networking at least weekly. The potential downside of this usage is that over 20% percent of sexually active participants reported having found a sex partner online in the past  three months, and more than 10% engaged in “exchange sex” — trading sex for food, drugs or a place to stay.

However, those who used social networking to meet sexual partners were also more likely to discuss safer sex practices. And homeless youth who used social networking in general were more likely to have been tested for HIV and STIs.

So, maybe there is something else about the people who go online to get information about sexual health. They might simply be the people who know they need resources, but aren’t sure where else to go to get them. And that’s not such a bad finding after all.