Teens' Facebook Profiles Reveal Sexual Intent

Wonder if your child is sexually active or getting close? New research suggests a review of their social networking site activity may provide considerable insight.

In a new study, researchers discovered that display of sexual references on teens' Facebook profiles is associated with their intention to have sex.

"Parents and physicians are often seeking clues for when it's time to have 'the talk' about sex with a teenager," said Megan A. Moreno from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

"Our study suggests that if sexual content is noted on a teen's social networking site profile, it's definitely time for that talk."

Dr. Moreno's team previously found that 54 percent of MySpace profiles contained high-risk behavior information, with 24 percent referencing sexual behavior.

The researchers hypothesized that these displays may represent involvement in risk behaviors, consideration of risk behaviors or just adolescent grandstanding.

In the current study, researchers investigated what sexual displays on social networking sites represent in the offline world.

They identified publicly available Facebook profiles of college freshmen, 85 of whom completed a survey measuring sexual experiences, risky sexual behavior, and for those not yet sexually active, sexual intention.

Researchers found a strong association between display of sexual references on Facebook and self-reported intention to initiate sexual intercourse.

The authors concluded that social networking sites present innovative opportunities for clinicians, educators and parents to identify adolescents who may benefit from targeted education regarding safe sex practices prior to sexual initiation.