Online Program

Sexual behaviors associated with meeting sexual partners online in adolescence

Tuesday, November 5, 2013 : 1:00 p.m. - 1:15 p.m.

Michele Ybarra, MPH PhD, Center for Innovative Public Health Research, San Clemente, CA
Kimberly Mitchell, PhD, University of New Hampshire, Durham, NH
Background: Given the rapid sexual development that occurs during adolescence, along with the almost universal use of the Internet by adolescents, understanding how technology may be a venue for meeting sexual partners is important.

Methods: A national survey of 5,542 13-18 year olds, with an over-sample of LGBT youth, was conducted online. Data were weighted to approximate a representative adolescent sample. Youth who reported vaginal and/or anal sex were asked follow-up questions about their most recent sexual partners, including where they met the person.

Results: Nine percent of sexually active youth (2% of all youth) reported meeting a sexual partner online. Sexually active LGB youth were significantly more likely to meet a sexual partner online (15%) compared to non-LGB sexually active youth (8%, p=0.002). Meeting a partner online was related to a higher likelihood of concurrent (i.e., non-monogamous) sexual partners. Online partners tended to be older–particularly for LGB youth. Youth were equally likely to report talking about condoms with their partners before first sex whether they met their partner online or offline. Among male LGB youth, non-significant trends suggested that youth were more likely to talk about condoms if they met their partner online.

Conclusions: Meeting sexual partners online is uncommon in adolescence for LGB and non-LGB youth. Nevertheless, youth who meet sexual partners online may be engaging in risky sexual behavior, including concurrent sexual partners and older partners. Healthy sexuality programs for adolescents need to include scenarios that discuss meeting sexual partners online.

Learning Areas:

Planning of health education strategies, interventions, and programs

Learning Objectives:
Identify the number of youth who meet sexual partners online. Describe the differences in risky sexual behavior related to meeting sexual partners online for LGB versus non-LGB youth.

Keyword(s): Adolescent Health, Sexual Risk Behavior

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am the PI on the project, overseeing data collection; I analyzed these data and led the writing of the abstract.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.