A National Study of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual (LGB), and Non-LGB Youth Sexual Behavior Online and In-Person
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Online and in-person sexual behaviors of cisgender lesbian, gay, queer, bisexual, heterosexual, questioning, unsure, and youth of other sexual identities were examined using data from the Teen Health and Technology study. Data were collected online between August 2010 and January 2011 from 5,078 youth 13–18 years old. Results suggested that, depending on sexual identity, between 4–35 % of youth had sexual conversations and 2–24 % shared sexual photos with someone online in the past year. Among the 22 % of youth who had oral, vaginal, and/or anal sex, between 5–30 % met one of their two most recent sexual partners online. Inconsistent condom use was associated with increased odds of meeting one’s most recent partner online for heterosexual adolescent men. For gay and queer adolescent men, having an older partner, a partner with a lifetime history of sexually transmitted infections (STI), and concurrent sex partners were each significantly associated with increased odds of having met one’s most recent sex partner online. None of the examined characteristics significantly predicted meeting one’s most recent sexual partner online versus in-person for heterosexual; bisexual; or gay, lesbian, and queer women. The Internet is not replacing in-person exploration and expression of one’s sexuality and meeting sexual partners online appears to be uncommon in adolescence across sexual identities. Healthy sexuality programming that acknowledges some youth are meeting partners online is warranted, but this should not be a main focal point. Instead, inclusive STI prevention programming that provides skills to reduce risk when engaging in all types of sex is critical.
KeywordsAdolescence Sexual behavior Internet Lesbian Gay Bisexual
This project was supported by Award Number R01 HD057191 from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development or the National Institutes of Health. We would like to thank the entire study team from Center for Innovative Public Health Research (formerly Internet Solutions for Kids), the University of New Hampshire, the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network (GLSEN), Latrobe University, and Harris Interactive, who contributed to the planning and implementation of the study; and Ms. Emilie Chen, who assisted with the literature review. Finally, we thank the study participants for their time and willingness to participate in this study.
Conflict of interest
The authors declare that there are no conflicts of interest.
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