Is Online Partner-Seeking Associated with Increased Risk of Condomless Sex and Sexually Transmitted Infections Among Individuals Who Engage in Heterosexual Sex? A Systematic Narrative Review
Use of Internet websites and mobile applications to meet potential romantic and sexual partners is becoming increasingly popular. While the Internet might foster better communication and sexual negotiation between partners, it can also be a deceptive environment that instigates and accelerates sexual risk-taking. Given the complexities of the Internet, it is critical to examine the association between risky sexual behaviors (RSBs) and online partner-seeking. Five databases (i.e., Google Scholar, PubMed, PsycINFO, Web of Science, and Ovid Medline) were searched for articles published before September 10, 2017, that examined the association between online partner solicitation (either for romantic and/or sexual reasons) and RSBs. Studies were eligible for inclusion if they were empirical papers published in English-language peer-reviewed journals looking at samples of online partner seekers who practice heterosexual sex (with a comparison group) and reporting either condom use or sexually transmitted infections (STIs) status, which were the two primary outcomes. A total of 25 studies met the criteria to be included in our review. Results from this literature search do not indicate a clear association between online partner-seeking and condom use or STI status. Potential moderators (i.e., age, gender, reasons for online partner solicitation, duration of Internet correspondence, and Internet modalities) that should be included in future research were identified. Sexual health prevention efforts should address methods to negotiate safe practices between sexual partners and to encourage healthy non-virtual relationships, particularly among vulnerable populations.
KeywordsOnline partner-seeking Online dating Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) Condom use Risky sexual behaviors (RSBs)
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