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Safe Sex Messages Within Dating and Entertainment Smartphone Apps: A Review

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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.

No MeSH data available.


Inclusion of sex-related apps.
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figure1: Inclusion of sex-related apps.

Mentions: Our search yielded 250 apps from the Android Google Play marketplace and 263 apps from the Apple iTunes store. Ultimately, 137 apps were shortlisted for review (Figure 1). Of the 137 apps reviewed, the most common app purpose was sex aid and sexual exploration apps, which included information or advice on sexual positions (such as Kama Sutra apps) and apps that provided tips and ideas for foreplay and other techniques for promoting sexual pleasure (n=42, 30.7%). Other common categories were entertainment apps (n=32, 23.4%), apps relating to sexual assault (n=19, 13.9%), and apps for sexual education and information (n=12, 8.8%) (Table 1). A total of 15 apps (11.0%) included any sexual health content, and 15 apps (11.0%) contained sexual assault or violence content. iTunes apps were more likely than Google Play apps to have apps for the purpose of sex aids and sexual exploration or sexual assault (P=.01). Most of the apps (n=107, 78.1%) did not contain any sexual health content; that is, information about STIs, STI testing, condom use or assistance locating condoms, or contraception. There was no statistically significant difference in sexual health content between iTunes and Google Play apps (P=.06). Among the 15 apps that contained sexual health content, 5 (33%) had both contraception and STI information, 4 (27%) contained contraception information, and 6 (40%) contained information about STI and condom use for STI prevention. Most of the apps containing sexual health content were from the sex education and information category (n=11, 73%). The remaining sexual health information-containing apps were distributed as follows: 2 sex aid/sexual exploration apps, 1 entertainment app, and 1 categorized as other.


Safe Sex Messages Within Dating and Entertainment Smartphone Apps: A Review
Inclusion of sex-related apps.
© Copyright Policy - open-access
Related In: Results  -  Collection

License 1 - License 2
Show All Figures
getmorefigures.php?uid=PMC5120239&req=5

figure1: Inclusion of sex-related apps.
Mentions: Our search yielded 250 apps from the Android Google Play marketplace and 263 apps from the Apple iTunes store. Ultimately, 137 apps were shortlisted for review (Figure 1). Of the 137 apps reviewed, the most common app purpose was sex aid and sexual exploration apps, which included information or advice on sexual positions (such as Kama Sutra apps) and apps that provided tips and ideas for foreplay and other techniques for promoting sexual pleasure (n=42, 30.7%). Other common categories were entertainment apps (n=32, 23.4%), apps relating to sexual assault (n=19, 13.9%), and apps for sexual education and information (n=12, 8.8%) (Table 1). A total of 15 apps (11.0%) included any sexual health content, and 15 apps (11.0%) contained sexual assault or violence content. iTunes apps were more likely than Google Play apps to have apps for the purpose of sex aids and sexual exploration or sexual assault (P=.01). Most of the apps (n=107, 78.1%) did not contain any sexual health content; that is, information about STIs, STI testing, condom use or assistance locating condoms, or contraception. There was no statistically significant difference in sexual health content between iTunes and Google Play apps (P=.06). Among the 15 apps that contained sexual health content, 5 (33%) had both contraception and STI information, 4 (27%) contained contraception information, and 6 (40%) contained information about STI and condom use for STI prevention. Most of the apps containing sexual health content were from the sex education and information category (n=11, 73%). The remaining sexual health information-containing apps were distributed as follows: 2 sex aid/sexual exploration apps, 1 entertainment app, and 1 categorized as other.

View Article: PubMed Central - HTML - PubMed

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.

No MeSH data available.