Social networking Web sites, such as Facebook and MySpace, can have a tremendous impact on adolescents’ health.
Previous research with traditional media has shown that exposure to substance use and sexual content is linked to initiation of those behaviors. The difference is that with social media, adolescents not only consume information, they also produce it.
That’s why the Adolescent Health Research team, led by Assistant Professor Megan Moreno, MD, MSEd, MPH, is investigating the health implications of social media use among adolescents.
One of their studies showed that nearly half of 18-year-olds on MySpace publicly discuss risky health behavior, a phenomenon that was less frequent among teens who displayed information about other interests. Another showed that a single email from a physician could reduce at-risk teens’ online display of sexual content.
Dr. Moreno’s team continues their work with a new five-year, $2.5 million grant from the National Institutes of Health. The project will explore whether Facebook is an effective tool for identifying substance use in college students. It will also evaluate whether Facebook can help influence behavior changes and be used for targeted intervention.
And by finding safe ways for adolescents to use social media, Dr. Moreno hopes to keep them healthy through one of the most critical periods of human development.