Display of health risk behaviors on MySpace by adolescents: prevalence and associations

Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2009 Jan;163(1):27-34. doi: 10.1001/archpediatrics.2008.528.


Objective: To determine the prevalence of and associations among displayed risk behavior information that suggests sexual behavior, substance use, and violence in a random sample of the self-reported 18-year-old adolescents' publicly accessible MySpace Web profiles.

Design: Cross-sectional study using content analysis of Web profiles between July 15 and September 30, 2007.

Setting: www.MySpace.com.

Participants: A total of 500 publicly available Web profiles of self-reported 18-year-olds in the United States.

Main outcome measures: Prevalence and associations among displayed health risk behaviors, including sexual behavior, substance use, or violence, on Web profiles.

Results: A total of 270 (54.0%) profiles contained risk behavior information: 120 (24.0%) referenced sexual behaviors, 205 (41.0%) referenced substance use, and 72 (14.4)% referenced violence. Female adolescents were less likely to display violence references (odds ratio [OR], 0.3; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.15-0.6). Reporting a sexual orientation other than "straight" was associated with increased display of references to sexual behavior (OR, 4.48; 95% CI, 1.27-15.98). Displaying church or religious involvement was associated with decreased display of all outcomes (sex: OR, 0.32; 95% CI, 0.12-0.86; substance use: OR, 0.38; 95% CI, 0.19-0.79; violence: OR, 0.12; 95% CI, 0.02-0.87; any risk factor: OR, 0.36; 95% CI, 0.19-0.7). Displaying sport or hobby involvement was associated with decreased references to violence (OR, 0.27; 95% CI, 0.09-0.79) and any risk factor (OR, 0.46; 95% CI, 0.27-0.79).

Conclusions: Adolescents frequently display risk behavior information on public Web sites. Further study is warranted to explore the validity of such information and the potential for using social networking Web sites for health promotion.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Confidence Intervals
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Health Behavior*
  • Humans
  • Internet
  • Male
  • Odds Ratio
  • Prevalence
  • Risk Assessment
  • Risk-Taking*
  • Sex Factors
  • Sexual Behavior / statistics & numerical data
  • Social Media / statistics & numerical data*
  • Social Support
  • Substance-Related Disorders / epidemiology
  • United States
  • Violence / statistics & numerical data