Communication ETDs

Publication Date

Fall 11-10-2016


The United States has one of the highest teen pregnancy rates among developed countries and the numbers of STIs have increased during the last few years. Mobile phone applications constitute a promising platform to disseminate sexual health information and to reduce adverse health outcomes, particularly among teens. In order to be effective, apps have to follow a comprehensive approach to sexuality education, include concepts of behavior change theories, and adhere to health literacy principles.

This study used a mixed-methods approach consisting of a quantitative content analysis and qualitative thematic analysis to assess the quality of sexual education apps available to users on the iOS and Android app market.

The results show that there is a dearth of health literate, evidence- and theory-based sexual education apps available to teenagers in the United States. The focus remained on the negative consequences of sex and their prevention, while other topics such as identity or personal safety were hardly addressed. Interactive features were used in only 40% of apps. Furthermore, content was female-oriented and reinforced negative stereotypes and perceived norms that may have a negative impact on the sexual health of teens.

These findings suggest that the potential of apps has not yet been fully realized in the context of sexual health promotion. This thesis provides suggestions and guidelines for individuals interested in developing theory-and evidence-based sexual education apps.




sexual health, mHealth, teen pregnancy, prevention, information and communication technology, content analysis

Document Type


Degree Name


Level of Degree


Department Name

Department of Communication and Journalism

First Committee Member (Chair)

Dr. Judith McIntosh White

Second Committee Member

Dr. Tamar Ginossar

Third Committee Member

Dr. Julia Hess