Social networking sites provide alarming insight…

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According to findings from a study published in the January 2009 issue of Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine, social networking sites provide alarming insight to risky behaviors among teens. According to the study, conducted by Megan A. Moreno, M.D., of the University of Washington, and colleagues, more than half of the MySpace profiles sampled for the study (500 profiles of 18-year-olds) contained references to personally committed risky behavior to include sex, substance abuse, and violence. Teens have increasingly utilized social networking sites like MySpace.com; this truth coincides with the reality that around 90% of teens have internet access. While over 50% of the profiles sampled had laid claim to risky behaviors, researchers believe that in actuality these numbers may be even greater as many teens may not disclose information about risky behaviors. “We would not expect all sexually active teens to display sexual information on a public website… the population of adolescents who display this information may represent a higher-risk population willing to showcase sexual behaviors in a public venue,” the researchers said.

There are a variety of unwanted effects of posting this kind of information online such as attention from sexual predators and lessening of employment opportunities, to name a couple. The following is an excerpt of an article from Medpage Today that discusses the study further:

The researchers said that previous surveys have found these activities to have protective effects on adolescent risk-taking behaviors.

The authors noted that the study was limited by the fact that the validity of self-report and self-reported behaviors on MySpace Web sites is unknown and that the profile search was conducted exclusively using the proprietary MySpace search engine.

But, they said, social networking sites may provide a new venue to identify teens who are considering or engaging in health risk behaviors.

These sites are “a particularly powerful setting for the modeling of risk behavior,” the researchers said, because such wide display of behaviors facilitates connections between users with similar interests.

They also said the findings imply that adolescents need guidance on safe Internet use, given the dangers associated with displaying personal risk behavior information online.

In an accompanying editorial, Kimberly J. Mitchell, Ph.D., and Michele Ybarra, Ph.D., of the University of New Hampshire, said the findings show that social networking sites “provide opportunities for pediatric health professionals and parents to communicate with young people.”

Click here to view the entire article from Medpage Today

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