Publications & Reports

Safe sex messages within dating and entertainment smartphone apps: A review.

Huang ET, Williams H, Hocking JS, Lim MS.

Abstract

Background: Smartphone apps provide a new platform for entertainment, information distribution, and health promotion activities, as well as for dating and casual sexual encounters. Previous research has shown high acceptability of sexual health interventions via smartphone apps; however, sexual health promotion apps were infrequently downloaded and underused. Integrating sexual health promotion into established apps might be a more effective method. Objective: The objective of our study was to critically review popular sex-related apps and dating apps, in order to ascertain whether they contain any sexual health content. Methods: Part 1: In January 2015, we used the term “sexual” to search for free apps in the Apple iTunes store and Android Google Play store, and categorized the sexual health content of the 137 apps identified. Part 2: We used the term “dating” to search for free geosocial-networking apps in the Apple iTunes and Android Google Play stores. The apps were downloaded to test functionality and to determine whether they included sexual health content. Results: Part 1: Of the 137 apps identified, 15 (11.0%) had sexual health content and 15 (11.0%) contained messages about sexual assault or violence. The majority of the apps did not contain any sexual health content. Part 2: We reviewed 60 dating apps: 44 (73%) targeting heterosexual users, 9 (15%) targeting men who have sex with men (MSM), 3 (5%) targeting lesbian women, and 4 (7%) for group dating. Only 9 dating apps contained sexual health content, of which 7 targeted MSM. Conclusions: The majority of sex-related apps and dating apps contained no sexual health content that could educate users about and remind them of their sexual risks. Sexual health practitioners and public health departments will need to work with app developers to promote sexual health within existing popular apps. For those apps that already contain sexual health messages, further study to investigate the effectiveness of the content is needed.

Link to publisher’s web site

Publication

  • Journal: JMIR Mhealth and Uhealth
  • Published: 08/11/2016
  • Volume: 4
  • Issue: 4
  • Pagination: e124

Author

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