Sex, Drugs, and Alcohol in the Digital Neighborhood: A multi-method analysis of online discourse amongst Black and Hispanic Youth

AbstractIn the digital neighborhood, Black and Hispanic youth communicate their perspectives about a myriad of issues facing youth, including sex and substance use. This population of young people are also disproportionately burdened by negative outcomes associated with sex and substance use behaviors, even when their behavior is less risky. Given the increased likelihood of negative outcomes, we investigated how youth talk about these behaviors in their online social networks. This mixed methods study integrates a behavioral survey with a machine learning-supported, qualitative content analysis of one year of Facebook and Twitter posts from 50 participants, with feedback from a youth advisory board. Findings suggest that participants who drank were more likely to post about alcohol. Women posted more about STIs, HIV and pregnancy. Posts around sexual behavior often discussed trust in sexual partnerships and gendered views of sex. Alcohol and marijuana were used to relieve stress, to handle personal grief and community violence, and as a coping mechanism for general distress. Understanding how youth think about sexual risk and substance use can inform the design of more effective prevention efforts.


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