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The Internet as a Source of Sexual Information in a Sample of Spanish Adolescents: Associations with Sexual Behavior

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Abstract

Given the widespread availability of sexual information and content on the internet, together with the web’s corresponding appeal (e.g., anonymity, portability, and social networking), it is likely that many adolescents learn about sex online. However, the internet has rarely been considered in studies on teenagers’ sources of sexual information, and the literature has several limitations and gaps. This study aims mainly to examine the amount of sexual information that a sample of Spanish adolescents receives from the internet, along with its usefulness, differences by sex and developmental stage, and associations with sexual behavior. A total of 3809 secondary students aged 12 to 17 completed a written survey anonymously. According to the analyses, 68.4 % of the participants had received sexual information online. Boys and middle adolescents obtained more (and more useful) information. Receiving more sexual information online was associated with masturbation and engaging in non-coital and coital behavior, but not with age or condom use at first intercourse. Since the internet appears to be a promising, useful, and widely accessed source of sexual information among adolescents, professionals are encouraged to incorporate internet-based approaches into their sexual education interventions with this age group.

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Notes

  1. Overall scores were obtained by calculating the mean amount of information received about the diverse topics. Only responses provided by participants with siblings were considered when examining the amount of information received from that source. Analyses on the usefulness of the information were carried out solely for those participants that reported having received information from a source.

  2. Regression analyses of condom use at first intercourse and age at first intercourse were conducted solely for those participants who reported having had coital experience.

  3. Throughout the “Discussion,” the terms “Spain/Spanish” are used generically to refer to this cohort from the Autonomous Community of Castilla y Leon due to the international nature of the journal. It is not the authors’ intention to overstate the results. Given the sample characteristics and sampling procedure used, the findings could be generalized with caution to secondary students attending public schools in the Autonomous Community of Castilla y Leon. To the authors’ knowledge, however, no evidence nor socio-cultural factor suggests that secondary students attending public schools in other Spanish Autonomous Communities may differ significantly in the variables assessed, e.g., some data indicate that the age of Spanish adolescents at the onset of sexual activity does not differ from one Autonomous Community to another (Teva, Bermúdez, & Buela-Casal, 2009)

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Acknowledgments

We are grateful to the Regional Ministry of Education of Castilla y Leon (Spain) for providing funding for this research work.

Funding

This study was funded by the Regional Ministry of Education of Castilla y Leon, in Spain (grant number SA081A11-1).

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Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the General Directorate for Universities and Research of the Regional Ministry of Education of Castilla y Leon (Spain) and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

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Correspondence to Eva González-Ortega.

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González-Ortega, E., Vicario-Molina, I., Martínez, J.L. et al. The Internet as a Source of Sexual Information in a Sample of Spanish Adolescents: Associations with Sexual Behavior. Sex Res Soc Policy 12, 290–300 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s13178-015-0196-7

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