High-Risk Sexual Activity: Using Technology for Prevention & Intervention

iKeepSafe supports the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) mission to prevent unhealthy behavior through reducing factors that increase risk, and increasing factors that promote resilience. We endorse their commitment to accomplish prevention through “all levels of  influence: individual, relationship, community, and societal” [1]. We hope to empower parents, educators, and mentors to use technology as a tool for identifying risk and promoting resilience within their own communities.

High-risk sexual activity includes any behavior that would cause participants emotional or physical harm. High-risk sexual activities include unprotected sex, sex before the legal age of consent, and multiple sex partners. These activities put youth at risk for teen pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases, and, for adolescent girls, early sexual activity may cause depression [2]. In 2009, a third of sexually active high school students reported not using a condom in their most recent sexual intercourse. And, almost half of the 19 million STD infections diagnosed each year are youth aged 15-24. [2]

If parents and mentors are aware of the risk factors and warning signs, connected technology can help them promote healthy behavior and intervene before dangerous behavior occurs.

Risk Factors: High-Risk Sexual Activity

  • Bipolar Disorder [3].
  • Sexually permissive parental values.
  • Drug and alcohol abuse.
  • Single-parent family.
  • Exclusive dating relationship.
  • History of sexual abuse. [4]
  • Gender & Age—adolescent females are more susceptible to certain STD’s because of the developing cells in the immature cervix.
  • Unprotected sex.
  • Multiple sex partners. [5]
  • Depression. [2]

Warning Signs: High-Risk Sexual Activity
While risk factors indicate a possibility for high-risk behavior, if a young person is already engaged in high-risk sexual activity, they may exhibit the following warning signs:

  • Sexting
  • Depression
  • STDs
  • Pregnancy

Because of the quasi-anonymous nature of the internet, young people often reveal red-flags for high-risk sexual activity online. A 15-year old boy might brag about multiple sex partners on Facebook. A 17-year old girl might mention pregnancy fears in a blog post. Or, sexted images might be passed around school.

Parents and mentors who are connected both offline and online with young people should carefully watch for risk factors and warning signs of high-risk sexual behavior. When witnessed, these warning signs should be taken seriously to help young people make informed decisions about their sexual health and long term well-being.

Upstander Action

Reduce Risk Factors
When appropriate, connect with young people online. Use the online world to help educate parents and young people within your sphere of influence about the emotional and physical risks of early sexual activity, multiple sex partners, and unprotected sex.

Use the online world to educate parents and young people on the role alcohol and drugs play in high-risk sexual behavior.

Increase Factors for Prevention
If you are a parent, discuss sex openly and calmly with your child. Let them know your values and expectations. Connect with them online and be a part of their social network. If you detect signs of possible or intended high-risk sexual behavior—talk with your child.


  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2010, August 24). Suicide: Prevention Strategies. Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/ViolencePrevention/suicide/prevention.html
  2. National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. (n.d.). Sexual Risk Behaviors. Retrieved from: http://www.cdc.gov/HealthyYouth/sexualbehaviors/
  3. Office of the Surgeon General. (n.d.). Depression and Suicide in Children and Adolescents. In Mental Health: A Report of the Surgeon General (chapter 3). Retrieved from  http://www.surgeongeneral.gov/library/mentalhealth/chapter3/sec5.html
  4. Luster, T., & Small, S. (1994). Adolescent Sexual Activity: An Ecological, Risk-Factor Approach. Journal of Marriage and Family, 56. Retrieved from: http://www.jstor.org/stable/352712
  5. Mayo Clinic. (2010, November 5). Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs). Retrieved from: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/sexually-transmitted-diseases-stds/DS01123/DSECTION=risk-factors


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