Background: Few studies have examined the association between sexual health risks and online sex-seeking among teenagers. The purpose of this study was to assess the associations between meeting sex partners online and a range of sexual risk behaviors and outcomes among adolescents.
Methods: Participants aged 13 to 19 years were recruited from a publicly funded teen clinic in Florida. After obtaining informed consent/assent, 273 participants completed an audio computer-assisted self-interview that included questions on demographics, sexual behavior, sexually transmitted disease (STD) history, and online sex-seeking behaviors and experiences. Participants also provided urine samples for chlamydia and gonorrhea testing. Data were analyzed using logistic regression to identify the association between having an online sex partner and sexual behaviors/outcomes.
Results: After adjusting for significant bivariate correlates, teens reporting online sex partners were more likely to be male, be multiracial, have a history of same-sex sexual activity, report a higher number of vaginal sex partners, and report a lower age at first vaginal sex. However, teens with online sex partners were no more likely to have ever had an STD or a current biological STD.
Conclusions: This study is one of the first to correlate biological STD results to online sexual partnering data in a youth population. Although meeting a sex partner online was not associated with past or current STDs, it was associated with other sexual risk behaviors. Future research is needed to examine the complex nature of online sexual partnering among adolescents and to develop intervention approaches.