Online communication predicts Belgian adolescents' initiation of romantic and sexual activityOnline communication predicts Belgian adolescents' initiation of romantic and sexual activity
Faculty of Social Sciences. Communication Sciences
Media, ICT and interpersonal relations in Organisations and Society (MIOS)
European journal of pediatrics. - Berlin
175(2016):4, p. 509-516
University of Antwerp
Online communication is associated with offline romantic and sexual activity among college students. Yet, it is unknown whether online communication is associated with the initiation of romantic and sexual activity among adolescents. This two-wave panel study investigated whether chatting, visiting dating websites, and visiting erotic contact websites predicted adolescents' initiation of romantic and sexual activity. We analyzed two-wave panel data from 1163 Belgian adolescents who participated in the MORES Study. We investigated the longitudinal impact of online communication on the initiation of romantic relationships and sexual intercourse using logistic regression analyses. The odds ratios of initiating a romantic relationship among romantically inexperienced adolescents who frequently used chat rooms, dating websites, or erotic contact websites were two to three times larger than those of non-users. Among sexually inexperienced adolescents who frequently used chat rooms, dating websites, or erotic contact websites, the odds ratios of initiating sexual intercourse were two to five times larger than that among non-users, even after a number of other relevant factors were introduced. Conclusion: This is the first study to demonstrate that online communication predicts the initiation of offline sexual and romantic activity as early as adolescence. Practitioners and parents need to consider the role of online communication in adolescents' developing sexuality.