Sexuality Research and Social Policy

, Volume 8, Issue 1, pp 27–37 | Cite as

The More Things Change…: The Relative Importance of the Internet as a Source of Contraceptive Information for Teens

  • Rachel K. JonesEmail author
  • Ann E. Biddlecom


Most teens have regular access to the internet, and there is some expectation that the internet is helping to fill the sexual health information gap. We conducted in-depth interviews with a racially and ethnically diverse sample of 58 high school students to find out where they obtained information about contraception. A substantial minority had been exposed to online contraceptive information, but most did not consider it a main source. A majority had been exposed to this information from school, family, friends, and traditional media. Most teens were wary, or even distrustful, of online sexual health information, whereas school, family and, to a lesser extent, friends, were generally trusted. Our findings suggest that the internet is not filling the sexual health information gap for a number of teens, but we identify strategies that could increase teens awareness of, and trust in, information from this source.


Adolescents Birth control World Wide Web Sexuality education United States 



The authors thank Luciana Hebert and Ruth Milne for their substantive contributions to the project. We are also grateful to several school staff members (names purposely excluded to protect the identities of the schools) for their invaluable guidance and help with recruitment activities. This project was funded by a grant from the Ford Foundation.


  1. Bess, K., Doe, K., Green, T., & Terry, T. (2009). Youth sexual health project: a framework for change. Retrieved November 15, 2010, from the David Catania website
  2. Borzekowski, D. L., & Rickert, V. I. (2001). Adolescent cybersurfing for health information: a new resource that crosses barriers. Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, 155, 813–817.Google Scholar
  3. Braun-Courville, D. K., & Rojas, M. (2009). Exposure to sexually explicit websites and adolescent sexual attitudes and behaviors. The Journal of Adolescent Health, 45, 156–162.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Gilbert, L. K., Temby, J. R. E., & Rogers, S. E. (2005). Evaluating a teen STD prevention web site. The Journal of Adolescent Health, 37, 236–242.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Guilamo-Ramos, V., Dittus, P., Jaccard, J., Goldberg, V., Casillas, E., & Bouris, A. (2006). The content and process of mother–adolescent communication about sex in Latino families. Social Work Research, 30, 169–181.Google Scholar
  6. Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation (2003). National survey of adolescents and young adults: sexual health knowledge, attitudes and experiences. Retrieved on November 15, 2010, from the Kaiser Family Foundation website
  7. Jaccard, J., Dittus, P. J., & Gordon, V. V. (2000). Parent–teen communication about premarital sex: factors associated with the extent of communication. Journal of Adolescent Research, 15(2), 187–208.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Jones, R.K. & Biddlecom, A.E. (2011). Is the internet filling the sexual health information gap for teens?: an exploratory study. Journal of Health Communication, 16, 112–123.Google Scholar
  9. Lau, M., Markham, C., Lin, H., Flores, G., & Chacko, M. R. (2009). Dating and sexual attitudes in Asian–American adolescents. Journal of Adolescent Research, 24, 91–113.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Lindberg, L. D., Santelli, J. S., & Singh, S. (2006). Changes in formal sex education: 1995–2002. Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health, 38, 182–189.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Martinez, G., Abma, J., & Copen, C. (2010). Educating teenagers about sex in the United States. NCHS data brief no. 44. Hyattsville: National Center for Health Statistics.Google Scholar
  12. Miller, K. S., Kotchick, B. A., Dorsey, S., Forehand, R., & Ham, A. Y. (1998). Family communication about sex: what are parents saying and are their adolescents listening? Family Planning Perspectives, 30, 218–235.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Rideout, V. (2001). Generation how young people use the Internet for health information. Retrieved on November 15, 2010, from the Kaiser Family Foundation website
  14. Suzuki, L., & Calzo, J. (2004). The search for peer advice in cyberspace: an examination of online teen bulletin boards about health and sexuality. Applied Developmental Psychology, 25, 685–698.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Wolak, J., Mitchell, K., & Finkelhor, D. (2007). Unwanted and wanted exposure to online pornography in a national sample of youth internet users. Pediatrics, 119, 247–257.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Ybarra, M. L., & Mitchell, K. J. (2005). Exposure to internet pornography among children and adolescents: a national survey. Cyber Psychology & Behavior, 8, 473–486.Google Scholar
  17. Zhao, S. (2009). Parental education and children's online health information seeking: beyond the digital divide debate. Social Science & Medicine, 69, 1501–1505.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science + Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Guttmacher InstituteNew York CityUSA
  2. 2.United Nations Population DivisionNew YorkUSA

Personalised recommendations