A systematic review of social networking sites: innovative platforms for health research targeting adolescents and young adults

J Nurs Scholarsh. 2013 Sep;45(3):256-64. doi: 10.1111/jnu.12032. Epub 2013 May 15.


Purpose: To review the evidence to determine if social networking sites (SNS) are effective tools for health research in the adolescent and young adult populations.

Design: Systematic review of published research articles focused on use of SNS for youth health research.

Methods: Seventeen articles were selected that met the following criteria: used SNS at any stage of study, participants between 13 and 25 years of age, English language, and both international and national studies. Reviewers categorized selected studies based on the way SNS were used.

Findings: Utilization of SNS for effectively implementing research with adolescents and young adults include (a) recruitment, (b) intervention, and (c) measurement. Four findings about advantages of using SNS apparent in this review are (a) ease of access to youth, (b) cost effectiveness in recruitment, (c) ease of intervention, and (d) reliable screening venue of mental status and high-risk behaviors.

Conclusions: Although this literature review showed relatively minimal research to date on the use of SNS for research targeting adolescents and young adults, the impact of using SNS for health research is of considerable importance for researchers as well as participants. With careful focus, SNS can become a valuable platform to access, recruit, and deliver health interventions in a cost-effective manner to youth populations as well as hard-to-reach minority or underserved populations.

Clinical relevance: The evidence demonstrates the usefulness of SNS as innovative platforms for health promotion among adolescents and young adults.

Keywords: Adolescent; health promotion; social networking sites; young adult.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Diffusion of Innovation
  • Health Promotion / methods*
  • Humans
  • Internet*
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Social Networking*
  • Young Adult