Turns out all that time you spend on Facebook could be good for your health. A new study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine finds that public health messages on Facebook could be the best way to teach younger generations about safe sex practices.
The study, conducted at the University of Colorado, split over 1,500 people between the ages of 18 and 24 into two groups: one that ‘liked’ a safe sex advocacy site, and one subscribed to a general news page. When the researchers surveyed the participants two months later, over 68% of those who received safe sex information on Facebook reported that they used condoms during their last sexual experience, while only 56% of the general news participants reported to have practiced safe sex.
Dr. Elizabeth Schroeder, who runs a sexual health website for teenagers, believes that “using social media to reach young people to absolutely brilliant…you have to go where the clients are in order to reach them effectively.” With the recent studies that find parents not communicating safe sex practices effectively, along with the lack of comprehensive sexual education in high schools, social media may in fact be the best way to reach teenagers in order to promote condom use, STI testing, as well contraceptive options.
While the Facebook study seemed to prove that safe sex messages are communicated effectively through social media, the effects of the study proved to be short-lived. After six months, researchers found that the participants resumed their old sex habits, and researchers stopped registering additional impact from the safe sex advocacy page. Dr. Schroeder added, “You can’t hope that it will maintain itself on Facebook or Twitter — you have to constantly change it up, switch up the format, and keep young people interested. Try a video chat or an online forum.”