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

Abstract

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.

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Notes

  1. We generally assumed that interviewees' were referring to heterosexual, vaginal intercourse when they used the terms sex and sexual activity in regards to both their own behavior and that of others. However, we seldom clarified this definition. Several students referred or alluded to sexual activities other than vaginal intercourse (e.g., oral sex), but we did not probe their responses. Four students indicated that they were, or potentially were, gay, lesbian, or bisexual, and all related that they had not had sex; these individuals, in particular, may have been referring to sexual activities other than heterosexual vaginal intercourse.

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Acknowledgements

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.

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Correspondence to Rachel K. Jones.

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Ann E. Biddlecom was formerly a Senior Research Associate at the Guttmacher Institute. The views expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations.

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Jones, R.K., Biddlecom, A.E. The More Things Change…: The Relative Importance of the Internet as a Source of Contraceptive Information for Teens. Sex Res Soc Policy 8, 27–37 (2011). https://doi.org/10.1007/s13178-011-0039-0

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s13178-011-0039-0

Keywords

  • Adolescents
  • Birth control
  • World Wide Web
  • Sexuality education
  • United States