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Young Peoples' Risky Behavior on Social Network Sites

Research with MySpace users found that more than half often discuss subjects like alcohol or drug use, sex and violence. Transcript of radio broadcast:

This is the VOA Special English Health Report.

Researchers say more than half of young people who use MySpace often discuss high-risk behaviors. Two studies of the social networking site recently appeared in the Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine.

In one study, researchers examined the pages of five hundred eighteen-year-olds from the United States. They found that forty-one percent of the profiles chosen at random included information about alcohol or drug use. Twenty-four percent discussed sexual behavior. And fourteen percent included discussion of violence.

Young people who said they were active in religious groups, sports or other interests were less likely to discuss risky behaviors.

In the second study, the researchers read the MySpace profiles of about one hundred ninety individuals. All said they were eighteen to twenty years old. Each person discussed high-risk behaviors.

One of the researchers was Megan Moreno, now at the University of Wisconsin. Doctor Moreno sent a message to half the young people. Her e-mail suggested that they change their profiles. She also warned them about the risk of sharing personal information.

About fourteen percent of those receiving the e-mail removed information on sexual behavior. Among individuals who did not receive a message, about five percent later removed such information.

In the United States, about half of all young people use social networking sites like MySpace and Facebook.

Doctor Dimitri Christakis at Seattle Children's Hospital worked on the research. He says parents have a responsibility to know what their children are doing on the Internet.

On February third, the top law enforcement officials in Connecticut and North Carolina announced some news about MySpace. MySpace told them it has identified and removed about ninety thousand registered sex offenders from its site in the last two years. These people were found guilty of crimes that require them to be publicly listed as sex offenders. The number is forty thousand more than MySpace has reported in the past.

The officials in Connecticut and North Carolina lead a group of state attorneys general who are seeking to make social networks safer. Connecticut's Richard Blumenthal said many other offenders may be using sites under false names and ages. A spokeswoman for North Carolina's Roy Cooper, Noelle Talley, says Facebook has not yet answered a demand for information.

And that's the VOA Special English Health Report. I'm Steve Ember.