Physician posts on MySpace help teens

By Sheryl Kay • Published: April 14th, 2009
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

When teens want to meet, one top place is MySpace, the computer-based social networking tool. Having a MySpace account enables a teen to set up a Web page with photographs, biographical information and message boards, all of which can be viewed by other members.

Since its inception, concern has been voiced repeatedly that because it’s an open forum, MySpace encourages dissemination of inappropriate information. A recent study published in the Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine showed that in fact more than half the teens using MySpace did leave posts regarding unsafe behaviors.

During the summer of 2007, researchers randomly chose five-hundred MySpace profiles from individuals who said they were eighteen. About half percent contained information on risky behaviors, with forty-one percent referencing substance abuse, twenty-four percent referring to sexual behaviors and fourteen percent posting violent information.

Interestingly, in a follow-up study by the same researchers, inappropriate postings were dramatically reduced when the author of those postings received a simple e-mail from a physician. The study involved nearly two-hundred profiles of eighteen- to twenty-year-olds who posted some sort of information on inappropriate behaviors. Half were sent e-mails recommending a change in the postings, and of that group, fourteen percent dropped all postings on risky behaviors. That’s compared with only five percent of those who received no warning from a physician.

Parents may not be able to curtail its use. But a simple MySpace warning may help make the difference.