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7 September 2012

Texting And Social Media Can Help in Promoting Healthy Behaviors

Keywords: SMS, health, intervention, interview, media, teens, Latin & South America, mobile, mobile phone, social media, young adults,

In the US Latino youth are a high risk group for engaging in unhealthy behaviors. A study in Journal of Medical Internet Research shows what a health intervention aimed at this group should look like. Specifically, the study shows that a combination of texing and social media can successfully promote healthy behaviors among Latino teens. 

Take aways

  • Both texting and social media can be used to effectively promote healthy behavior among teenagers.
  • Text messages:
    • can be effective in creating a bond between teens and intervention-staff.
    • should be sent only to inform youth about the intervention program.
    • should be sent preferably after school or in the evening.
    • should only be one-directional (i.e. from staff to youth), because of the privacy consideration of the staff.
  • A Facebook intervention page:
    • can be successful in keeping youngsters interested in the program, especially events are posted and there is a possibility to share pictures.
    • should be accessible for members of the intervention group only, to protect their privacy and avoid cyber bullying.
    • should have the opportunity for teens to respond at posts. 

Study information

  • The question?

    How can SMS and social media be used effectively to promote healthy behavior among Latino youth?

  • Who?

    15 Latino participants, and 5 staff members of the Empowering Latino Youth Program (ELYP)

  • Where?

    Maryland, United States

  • How?

    Researchers recruited participants and staff of the Empowering Latino Youth Program (ELYP), an intervention program to stimulate healthy behaviors among Latino teenagers.
    Researchers conducted 20 face-to-face interviews to find out about possible success factors and difficulties (according to participants) of a health intervention via SMS and social media.

Facts and findings

  • Both teenage participants and staff expect SMS to be a successful addition to the ELYP-program; they believe that the use of SMS can make participants and personnel feel more connected to each other.
  • Even though the staff expected SMS to be a helpful addition, there was some reluctance: the staff predicted that youngsters would think they could reach the staff 24/7 per SMS. And indeed, youth indicated that they would prefer 2-way text messaging (i.e. youth wanted to send messages back to the staff).
  • Teenagers were only interested in SMS messages from staff about the content of the program (i.e. no messages about the curriculum or motivational messages).
  • Both staff members and the teenagers indicated that the best time for staff members to text the youngsters of the program is after school or during the evening.
  • Both staff and teenagers thought Facebook can be an effective means to keep youth engaged with the program. 
  • Staff was worried that an intervention page on Facebook would enlarge the likelihood of cyber bullying.
  • The teenage participants stated that the opportunity to respond at messages on the Facebook intervention page is a prerequisite in order for them to visit the page