Adolescents' Exposure to Online Risks: Gender Disparities and Vulnerabilities Related to Online Behaviors

Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2021 May 27;18(11):5786. doi: 10.3390/ijerph18115786.


In the last decade, readily available electronic devices have created unprecedented opportunities for teens to access a wide variety of information and media-both positive and negative-on the internet. Despite the increasing number of initiatives taking place worldwide intended to assess and mitigate the online risks encountered by children and adolescents, there is still a need for a better understanding of how adolescents use the internet and their susceptibility to exposure to risks in the online space. We conducted a cross-sectional online survey of a convenience sample of 733 8th and 9th grade students in Utah. The survey contained eight questions regarding students' exposure to three types of online risk scenarios: content risk, contact risk, and criminal risk. Independent variables included students' online behaviors, use of social media and private messaging apps, and adult supervision of online activities. Logistic and negative binomial regression models indicated that gender, social media use, and chatting with strangers were associated with exposure to multiple risky online scenarios. Our results provide critical information to educators involved in the development of initiatives focusing on the reduction of youth online risk by identifying correlates of risky online events, allowing them to tailor their initiatives to meet the needs of potentially vulnerable populations.

Keywords: gender disparities; high school students; online behaviors; online risk; online safety; social media.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adolescent Behavior*
  • Adult
  • Child
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Humans
  • Internet
  • Risk-Taking
  • Students
  • Utah