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Teens, the Web, and Health 2.0

An estimated 93% of teenagers are online (2007. Pew Internet & American Life Project). Despite this impressive statistic, the development of successful Health 2.0 Web applications for teenagers can be challenging. The days of developing static, “brochureware” Websites with the intent of positively changing health behaviors with this population are over. Today’s teenagers are less tolerant than their adult counterparts about what features they expect from a Website. Some key requirements are:

  1. Quick access to fully “read/write”, social environments.
  2. Information is presented and can be shared in diverse formats (e.g., video, pictures, stories, podcasts, blogs).
  3. Support of multiple communication tools, such as instant messaging and mobile text messaging.

The Pew researchers go on to report that 64% of online teens engage in at least one type of content creation through social media applications. More specifically, 55% of teens participate in an online social network, 39% share their own content creations (e.g., pictures, stories, videos), 33% collaborate on a blog or Website their peers, and 28% have created their own blog. The report goes on to identify a subgroup of teens that are considered “super communicators” and use multiple technologies on a daily basis including instant messaging, text messaging, and social networking. Only 14% email use email on a daily basis.

Again, these statistics are impressive. However, the report does raise the question: “How do health care organizations wishing to provide a top-notch, online service (e.g., online support) to this population do so without jeopardizing appropriate privacy, security and parental involvement concerns?”

The key to a successful Health 2.0 initiative for teens begins with detailed planning. Organizations should have a small, dedicated project team consisting of appropriate health care professionals, marketers, administrators, lawyers, and technologists. These members do not need to all be full-time employees. The team should be tasked with a number of items (list is not exhaustive):

  1. Defining clear objectives, specifications, and audiences for the Web initiative.
  2. Conduct ongoing focus groups with target populations in terms of wants, needs, and concerns.
  3. Determining a clear “Terms of Use” policy, staffing requirements and procedures for moderation/maintenance, and best practices for user security and parental controls.
  4. Analyzing and selecting appropriate technologies that meet the defined objectives, including security risks, vulnerabilities, upgrades, access authentication, and availability to search engines and other social networks.
  5. Continually re-evaluating of above steps, the project plan, feedback from users, and the overall initiative post-launch.

Today, the Web is more about people communicating and collaborating and less about the one-way distribution of information. Therefore, your Web strategy needs to reflect that reality.

You can download the complete report and other related reports at:

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