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July 26, 2000

Sex and Cyberspace—Virtual Networks Leading to High-Risk Sex

Author Affiliations

Author Affiliations: Division of Public Health, Georgia Department of Human Resources (Dr Toomey), and Department of Family and Preventive Medicine, Emory University School of Medicine (Dr Rothenberg), Atlanta.

JAMA. 2000;284(4):485-487. doi:10.1001/jama.284.4.485

In addition to its power and reach for rapid information exchange, the Internet has generated a new debate: does it fundamentally change the way we lead our lives? That the Internet has revolutionized communications and business practices worldwide is clearly recognized. That the Internet may have some psychological effects on individual behavior, molded perhaps by the technology itself, has now been noted. Newly described behavioral disorders possibly linked to Internet use include Internet-related depression1,2 and cybersex addiction.3-5 Recent reports have suggested that fully one third of adult Internet visits are directed to sexually oriented Web sites, chat rooms, and news groups,4 where Internet users can observe sexual images or participate in online sexual discussions with individuals or groups. Although cybersex may be considered within the broad realm of sexually related behaviors, it carries no risk for sexually transmitted disease (STD) transmission because no direct physical contact occurs. In contrast, use of the Internet to identify sex partners for actual (rather than virtual) sexual activity does impose such risk.