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May social media be a tool in promoting sexual health? Youth’s use, professional’s attitudes and current sexual education programs

Aversa, F1; Todaro, E1; Silvaggi, M1; Rossi, V1; Nimbi, FM2; Rossi, R1; Tripodi, F1; Simonelli, C2

1: Institute of Clinical Sexology of Rome, Italy; 2: Department of Clinical and Dynamic Psychology, “Sapienza” University of Rome

Objectives: Social Media (SM) and on-line communities have become important communication channels for young people. The massive use of these technologies by new generations gave rise to an international debate regarding the potential effects on relationships and sexuality. This review aims at: highlighting advantages and limits of SM as sexual education tool and their impact on youth development; analyzing the attitudes of professionals involved in sexual education programs toward SM and Social Networking Sites (SNS); and getting a state of the art picture regarding how new technologies can be used to run sexual education programs.

Methods: The current review has been based on 77 articles published from January 2007 to October 2017 in Google Scholar, Web of science, Scopus, PubMed and PsycINFO about the implementation of technology in sexual education programs.

Results: Nowadays, The Internet, SM platforms and SNS contribute to development of adolescents’ identity, self-expression, intimate relationships and social well-being. Teens often use these tools to obtain health information, in particular related to sexuality, but the lack of clear and scientific-based on-line information may lead to confusion and anxiety on sexuality. Although health organizations recommend the use of technology to Health Care Professionals (HCPs), data show they use it in private rather than professional context. This attitude is mainly related to the difficulty in managing SM for work purposes and the belief that SM are not useful to reach any goal. Most of the on-line sexual education interventions resulted to be easily accessible, and have been effective to improve knowledge about sexual health and to increase safer sexual behaviors. However, these interventions are primarily focused on prevention of adolescents’ risk behaviors and require professionals trained on technologic tools.

Conclusions: Technology, Internet and linked services are tools and the related harm is use-dependent. The implementation of Tech-based sexual education programs is currently increasing; thus professionals need specific training to improve their ability in using SM as working tools. Education programs should provide a connection between youth virtual experiences and their feelings from a critical point of view, not only for prevention of risks’ behaviors, but also to promote emotional awareness and sexual well-being.

Disclosure:

Work supported by industry: no.

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