Background: Smartphone apps provide a new platform for entertainment, information distribution, and health promotion
activities, as well as for dating and casual sexual encounters. Previous research has shown high acceptability of sexual health
interventions via smartphone apps; however, sexual health promotion apps were infrequently downloaded and underused.
Integrating sexual health promotion into established apps might be a more effective method.
Objective: The objective of our study was to critically review popular sex-related apps and dating apps, in order to ascertain
whether they contain any sexual health content.
Methods: Part 1: In January 2015, we used the term “sexual” to search for free apps in the Apple iTunes store and Android
Google Play store, and categorized the sexual health content of the 137 apps identified. Part 2: We used the term “dating” to
search for free geosocial-networking apps in the Apple iTunes and Android Google Play stores. The apps were downloaded to
test functionality and to determine whether they included sexual health content.
Results: Part 1: Of the 137 apps identified, 15 (11.0%) had sexual health content and 15 (11.0%) contained messages about
sexual assault or violence. The majority of the apps did not contain any sexual health content. Part 2: We reviewed 60 dating
apps: 44 (73%) targeting heterosexual users, 9 (15%) targeting men who have sex with men (MSM), 3 (5%) targeting lesbian
women, and 4 (7%) for group dating. Only 9 dating apps contained sexual health content, of which 7 targeted MSM.
Conclusions: The majority of sex-related apps and dating apps contained no sexual health content that could educate users
about and remind them of their sexual risks. Sexual health practitioners and public health departments will need to work with
app developers to promote sexual health within existing popular apps. For those apps that already contain sexual health messages,
further study to investigate the effectiveness of the content is needed.
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