Reducing at-risk adolescents' display of risk behavior on a social networking web site: a randomized controlled pilot intervention trial

Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2009 Jan;163(1):35-41. doi: 10.1001/archpediatrics.2008.502.


Objective: To determine whether an online intervention reduces references to sex and substance abuse on social networking Web sites among at-risk adolescents.

Design: Randomized controlled intervention trial.


Participants: Self-described 18- to 20-year-olds with public MySpace profiles who met our criteria for being at risk (N = 190). Intervention Single physician e-mail.

Main outcome measures: Web profiles were evaluated for references to sex and substance use and for security settings before and 3 months after the intervention.

Results: Of 190 subjects, 58.4% were male. At baseline, 54.2% of subjects referenced sex and 85.3% referenced substance use on their social networking site profiles. The proportion of profiles in which references decreased to 0 was 13.7% in the intervention group vs 5.3% in the control group for sex (P = .05) and 26.0% vs 22% for substance use (P = .61). The proportion of profiles set to "private" at follow-up was 10.5% in the intervention group and 7.4% in the control group (P = .45). The proportion of profiles in which any of these 3 protective changes were made was 42.1% in the intervention group and 29.5% in the control group (P = .07).

Conclusions: A brief e-mail intervention using social networking sites shows promise in reducing sexual references in the online profiles of at-risk adolescents. Further study should assess how adolescents view different risk behavior disclosures to promote safe use of the Internet.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adolescent Behavior
  • Age Factors
  • Computer-Assisted Instruction / methods
  • Confidence Intervals
  • Electronic Mail*
  • Health Promotion / methods*
  • Humans
  • Internet*
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Odds Ratio
  • Pilot Projects
  • Reference Values
  • Risk Assessment
  • Risk Reduction Behavior
  • Risk-Taking*
  • Self Disclosure
  • Sex Factors
  • Sexual Behavior
  • Social Support*
  • Young Adult