CONTEXT: Little research exists about adolescents’ and young adults’ use of new media technologies to communicate about sexual health. Understanding how young people at high risk for STDs use these technologies can inform media-based interventions.
METHODS: Between October 2010 and March 2011, a sample of 94 low-income, parenting adolescents and young adults recruited at clinics in Connecticut completed an audio computer-assisted self-interview about their use of media technologies, communication with friends about sexual health and willingness to use media technologies for such communication. Descriptive statistics were calculated; characteristics of those willing and those unwilling to communicate were compared in chi-square, t and Mann–Whitney tests.
RESULTS: Ninety-three percent of participants had mobile phones; 71% used Facebook regularly. Participants discussed sexual health more often with close friends than with casual friends, and preferred to have such conversations in person (71% with close friends and 68% with casual friends), over the phone (52% and 45%) or via text message (30% and 28%), rather than through social networking sites (0–9% and 2–7%). Fewer than one-third reported being willing to share sexual health information with friends through a specific new media technology. Those who were willing were predominantly black (59%); of those who were unwilling, 51% were Latino. Condom self-efficacy, STD knowledge and number of Facebook friends were greater among those who were willing than among those who were unwilling.
CONCLUSIONS: For conversations about sexual health, young urban parents prefer private forms of -communi-cation; thus, social networking sites may not aid STD interventions.
Zai Divecha is program associate, Peer Health Exchange, San Francisco. Anna Divney is a doctoral student at City University of New York. Jeannette Ickovics is professor, School of Public Health and Department of Psychology, and Trace Kershaw is associate professor, School of Public Health, both at Yale University.