Those using social media to disseminate sexual health information to young people must consider the delicate interplay between how today's youth process and pass along information and how they attempt to carefully craft and control an online identity, aidsmap reports. Researchers conducted a small qualitative study of 22 people between the ages of 16 and 22 in New South Wales, Australia, and published their findings in Reproductive Health Matters.

The investigators found that young people felt it would be “weird” to post about sexual information in a public forum on Facebook. Discussions among young people about the topic were more likely to remain within the more private personal messaging capabilities of the site.

The researchers identified a particular challenge for health educators in the fact that young people like to take part in the creation of information that's shared on Facebook, yet they are less likely to pass along messages perceived as didactic. Also, youths are particularly concerned about being associated with a topic that might raise their risk of suffering from social stigma, bullying, gossip and “drama.” A way to get around this problem is to use humor in sexual health messaging, the researchers theorize; young people would be more likely to listen to the message and share it with their friends.

To read the study abstract, click here.

To read the aidsmap story, click here.