This month’s issue of Archives of Pediatric & Adolescent Medicine includes two related studies about teens’ online discussion of their own risk behaviors, whether real or invented, in the real world. Researchers at Seattle Children’s Research Institute conducted both studies.
One study found that most teens do discuss sex, substance use, or violence on social networking sites. The other shows that many of these teens can be convinced to change their online behavior with relatively little prompting–in this case, a researcher emailed teens whose public profiles included risk-behavior content. The email recommended making their profiles private or taking down such content, pointing out that anyone–including potential employers–could see it. It also raised health concerns about the behaviors. Many students who received the email took some of her suggestions.
In both USA Today and White Coat Notes (Boston.com’s blog about the Boston medical community), CMCH Director Michael Rich, MD, MPh, comments on the studies. The blog posting says that, according to Dr. RIch, “social networking sites [are] venues where young people channel their
images and ideas, connecting with peers as they try on different
identities. Where they can get into trouble is believing what they put on their profiles remains anonymous.” And as this research suggests, a wake-up call might make them reconsider.