Is the internet filling the sexual health information gap for teens? An exploratory study

J Health Commun. 2011 Feb;16(2):112-23. doi: 10.1080/10810730.2010.535112.


At the same time that there was a decline in comprehensive school-based sex education, adolescents' use of the Internet became nearly universal. This study explores adolescents' use and evaluation of the Internet for sexual health information, with a focus on the issues of contraception and abstinence. The authors conducted 58 in-depth interviews with juniors and seniors in 3 public high schools in New York City and Indiana. Most of the adolescents used the Internet on a daily basis, but few considered it a main source of information about contraception or abstinence. Students were more likely to rely on and had greater trust in traditional sexuality education sources such as school, family members, and friends. Most of the adolescents the authors interviewed were wary of sexual health information on the Internet, and the authors describe strategies adolescents used to sort through the abundance of sex-related material. Formal and informal efforts to provide sexuality education to adolescents should include specific age- and content-appropriate Web sites because many teens are not actively searching on their own, and they express reservations about relying on the Internet as a source of sexual health information.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Contraception*
  • Family
  • Female
  • Friends
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice*
  • Humans
  • Indiana
  • Information Seeking Behavior*
  • Internet / statistics & numerical data*
  • Interpersonal Relations
  • Male
  • New York City
  • Qualitative Research
  • Schools
  • Sex Education / methods*
  • Sex Education / trends
  • Sexual Abstinence*
  • Trust
  • Young Adult