The Internet may be to blame for selfies and misinformation, but it might also be a reason teens are becoming more responsible when it comes to their health.
A new study from the U.S. Center for Disease Control shows that teens are having sex later and less frequently.
In 1988, 60 percent of boys and 51 percent of girls 14 and older reported they had already had sex, Danielle Paquette and Weiyi (Dawn) Cai reported for The Washington Post. Those numbers have dropped significantly to 47 percent for boys and 44 percent for girls.
One possible reason for this decline could be connected to the availability of the Internet, Paquette and Cai reported.
Dr. Brooke Bokor, an adolescent medicine specialist at the Children’s National Health System, said teens are turning to the Internet for advice about health and wellness, which could promote healthier views on sex.
“They’re looking on the Web,” Bokor said. “They’re looking for guidance from parents, guardians and physicians. They can and will make positive decisions for their own health, both sexual and otherwise. We really need to be prepared to treat our youth and young adults as educated consumers.”
A Pew Research Center study showed that 95 percent of teens are online daily, and 73 percent of them have access to the Internet through their own smartphones.
This ever increasing access to massive stores of information is giving way to more reliance on the information found there.
CNN reported that 25 percent of teens are getting their health advice by searching Google or other similar sites. The Internet is the fourth most common way of finding health information among teens, following parents, school health classes and medical providers.
While teens still do trust their parents for health information, this study certainly emphasizes the need for online accuracy.
“This study underscores the importance of making sure there is accurate, appropriate and easily accessible health information available to teens online,” the study reported. “The information is used and acted upon, so it had better be good.”
This is where websites like Bedsider.org, which is run by the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, come into play, Paquette and Cai wrote. The site provides teens true information about practicing safe sex and, perhaps more importantly, how to talk to parents about sex.
“I mainly find it kind of moving, because it really illustrates that a lot of teens are grappling with very real, very important health challenges and that the Internet is empowering them with the information they need to take better care of themselves,” Vicky Rideout, who co-authored a study on where teens found health information, told The Washington Post.