Sex, drugs and blog-rolls


6 Jan 2009

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It may not come as much of a shock for those of us who spend time online, but recent studies from the Seattle Children’s Research Institute found that 54pc of teens frequently post details about their own personal ‘high-risk behaviour’ on social networking site MySpace. In other words, they talk about sex, drugs, alcohol and violent behaviour.

Of the 54pc of those teens posting details of illicit behaviour, overall 41pc specifically mentioned substance abuse, while 24pc talked about sexual behaviour and 14pc mentioned violence – not exactly the kind of gold your potential boss or college would relish digging up after a simple Google search, considering all these profiles were public rather than private.

The two studies by the Seattle Children’s Research Institute were looking at adolescent behaviour online in relation to health issues surrounding sexual activity and physical abuse, but with a twist: instead of simply documenting the profile for those displaying risky behaviour, what the researchers did was send an email from Dr Meg (Dr Mega A Moreno) to half of a group of 190 randomly selected 18-20 year olds meeting the stud’es’ criteria.

Dr Meg stated that she was a physician and recommended those contacted that they remove information on drug-taking or sexual activity, and included a link to a page with information on where to be tested for sexually transmitted diseases.

The result was that 14pc of the recipients deleted this personal information from their profile, with 5pc of those not alerted changing their information.

Not a dramatic difference, but Kimberly Mitchell, author of the editorial in the journal these studies were published in told the Washington Post that the study may help teens realise the permanence of these profiles.

“But adolescents aren’t necessarily thinking 10 years ahead, when employers or college administrators may look at these sites. Teens live in the here and now, so parents need to talk to kids about the longer-term impacts and help them think through some of the repercussions,” she told the Post.

For advice or information on staying safe on the net, visit www.webwise.ie.

By Marie Boran

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