Cover: Influence of New Media on Adolescent Sexual Health

Influence of New Media on Adolescent Sexual Health

Evidence and Opportunities

Published May 6, 2011

by Rebecca L. Collins, Steven C. Martino, Rebecca Shaw

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Sexual risk behavior among U.S. adolescents is a major public health concern, with young people accounting for a disproportionate number of unplanned pregnancies and sexually transmitted infection diagnoses. Although a great deal of research attention has been devoted to understanding what puts adolescents at risk for these outcomes, it is clear that more must be done to address risky sexual activity among youth. One route is by identifying additional contributors that have been understudied — factors that put youth at risk and levers that can be used in preventive interventions. Over the past decade, new research has identified media as having the potential to serve both roles. A review of the literature linking media use to adolescent sexual attitudes and behavior, focusing primarily on newer media, reveals what may be largely unintended effects of exposure to sexual content. "New media" refers to content created and delivered via the Internet, including social networking and other specialized kinds of websites, as well as content delivered on other digital platforms, such as cell phones. A review of new-media interventions designed to improve adolescent sexual health also helps clarify what is already known and identify where there is the strongest need for further study in this rapidly changing area of adolescent life.

This research was conducted in RAND Health, a division of the RAND Corporation.

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