Study finds enthusiasm for digital and online sources of sexual and reproductive health information

February 26, 2014 by Robert Polner

Amid growing interest about the potential for using cell phones and the Internet to engage teens and families in health interventions, a new study has found that many parents and youth are enthusiastic about using digital and online technologies for sexual and reproductive health education, and express a need for trustworthy sources of information.

Based on a series of focus groups held in Los Angeles and San Diego, CA; New Haven, CT; New York, NY; Sarasota, FL; and Washington, DC, with a total of 62 parents and 106 adolescents, the study, "Potential for Using Online and Mobile Education with Parents and Adolescents to Impact Sexual and Reproductive Health," was published online February 13, 2014, by Prevention Science and is coauthored by Vincent Guilamo-Ramos of New York University's Silver School of Social Work, Leslie M. Kantor, vice president of education for Planned Parenthood Federation of America, and researchers Jane J. Lee, Deborah S. Levine, Sarah Baum, and Jennifer Johnsen.

"The Internet and mobile phones were a common source of sexual health information for the parents and teens in this study," commented Guilamo-Ramos. "However, both parents and teens expressed concern about the accuracy of the information they find online, as well as what they saw as an overwhelming amount of material on the Internet."

Many adolescent participants stated that online and mobile technologies can't replace asking direct questions of people with whom they have established relationships. The study found that "adolescents preferred sexual health information that was personalized and honest, which they frequently sought from trusted adults."

The study notes that parents have a central role in preventing their children from experiencing unintended pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections, including HIV/AIDS, and the quality of relationships that adolescents have with their parents was a major theme that emerged from the focus groups. Adolescents thought that undertaking a joint learning experience with their parents about sexuality might be "awkward." Some adolescents also said that their parents would be uncomfortable using digital technologies in general, pointing to a generational divide that parents, less familiar with the Internet, also acknowledged.

These findings helped inspire Planned Parenthood to develop a digital tool encouraging teens to talk with their parents about sex and sexuality titled, "Awkward or Not?" The tool is available, along with eight additional based in part on this research, at

"This research was invaluable in developing a set of digital tools for teens, designed to help them stay healthy and better plan for their futures," said Kantor. "Since launching in October, the complete set of tools has been used by close to 90,000 young people from across the country."

The study concludes that interventions delivered via the Internet and mobile technologies can help engage and educate families – particularly African American and Latinos who continue to experience significant sexual and disparities. Additional research into the effectiveness of newly developed digital tools for parents and teens, as well as barriers to youth and parents using such technology, is needed.

Explore further: Doctors don't provide sexual health info to teens

Related Stories

Doctors don't provide sexual health info to teens

June 12, 2013
Most sexually active teens don't get information about sexual health from their health care providers, finds a new study in the Journal of Adolescent Health. Furthermore, nearly one in five sexually active boys reported receiving ...

20 percent of seventh graders have 'sexted'

January 6, 2014
(HealthDay)—More than 20 percent of at-risk seventh graders have "sexted" and those middle schoolers were much more likely to also have engaged in some type of sexual behavior, a new study finds.

Few parents believe their teens are at risk of hearing loss

November 22, 2013
(HealthDay)—Few parents of adolescents believe their children are at risk of hearing loss, according to a study published online Nov. 21 in JAMA Otolaryngology-Head & Neck Surgery.

Parents greatly underestimate how often their children are cyberbullied

October 25, 2013
Cyberbullying has become a destructive force in many children's lives. After multiple suicides by children being cyberbullied, parents, more than ever, need to be aware of their children's online activity. A recent paper ...

Another study links 'Sexting' to sexual activity in teens

November 9, 2012
(HealthDay)—A new study of Dutch teens finds that few of them frequently engage in risky online activity related to sex, such as sending naked photos to strangers and searching for sex partners, but those who do are more ...

Parent-teen involvement deters Hispanic youth from substance use, risky sexual behaviors

January 17, 2014
Without parental guidance, Hispanic youths are at increased risk of contracting HIV because they are more likely to engage in substance abuse and risky sex behaviors, a new University of Michigan study found.

Recommended for you

In a nutshell: Walnuts activate brain region involved in appetite control

August 17, 2017
Packed with nutrients linked to better health, walnuts are also thought to discourage overeating by promoting feelings of fullness. Now, in a new brain imaging study, researchers at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) ...

Energy dense foods may increase cancer risk regardless of obesity status

August 17, 2017
Diet is believed to play a role in cancer risk. Current research shows that an estimated 30% of cancers could be prevented through nutritional modifications. While there is a proven link between obesity and certain types ...

Technology is changing Generation smartphone, and not always for the better

August 16, 2017
It's easy to imagine some graybeard long ago weighing in on how this new generation, with all its fancy wheels, missed out on the benefits of dragging stuff from place to place.

The environmental injustice of beauty

August 16, 2017
Women of color have higher levels of beauty-product-related chemicals in their bodies compared to white women, according to a commentary published today in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology. The authors say ...

Heavily used pesticide linked to breathing problems in farmworkers' children

August 15, 2017
Elemental sulfur, the most heavily used pesticide in California, may harm the respiratory health of children living near farms that use the pesticide, according to new research led by UC Berkeley.

Taking a stand on staying mobile after 80

August 14, 2017
(HealthDay)—If you want to stay as fit as possible well into your 80s, the answer may be as simple as standing on your own two feet.


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.