How the Internet is Changing Sexual Health Education Access

Despite many of our commonly held perceptions, lesbian, gay, bisexual and other sexual minority (LGB+) teen girls are 2-4 times more likely to be pregnant as an adolescent than their non-LGB+ female peers [1]. Addressing gaps in knowledge about how to prevent pregnancy and access to health services are essential first steps in improving sexual health for LGB+ teens, especially because their questions are not often addressed in traditional sexual education programs. [2] This includes basic information, such as how to reduce your risk for sexually transmitted infections (STIs) if you are having sex with another girl. More and more youth are seeking out information about their health online, including sexual health information [3], because it is a way to access credible information … [Read more...]

The Influence of Social Media for Trans Youth

Social media is an evolving form of communication that is now easily accessible to and incredibly influential of teens today. In fact, seven in ten teens across the country say they use Instagram, with a similar number using Snapchat. [1] With social media use almost universal among many teens, I often am asked whether this exposure is helpful or harmful to youth. The truth is: It depends. Teens often credit social media platforms to adding positivity to their lives – including feeling more connected with friends, exposing them to diversity, and receiving social support. [2] The Internet can be an especially important place for youth who may have restricted opportunities to form social connections in-person. This includes transgender and other gender diverse youth, who often … [Read more...]

Technology and sleep

Sleep keeps both our body and mind healthy. Research suggests that this is especially true for teens, who need at least 8 hours and sometimes even 10 hours a night. [1] Teenagers need more sleep because of the physical and emotional development that is happening. In fact, if teens don’t get enough shut-eye, they often have problems concentrating, can feel depressed, are slower to react physically, make poor decisions, their memory does not work as well, and they can be moody [1, 2].  Behavior problems, which can make it harder to do well in school, sometimes is also due to a lack of sleep [2]. It may not come as a surprise that many teens are not getting enough sleep. [2]. Studies find that over half of middle school students and almost three in four high school students are sleeping less … [Read more...]

The influence of social media on teen use of e-cigarettes

E-cigarette use – or “vaping” – among youth is on a dramatic rise. In just one year, from 2017 to 2018, e-cigarette use rose by 78% among high school students [1]. With almost 3 in 5 teens vaping, more high school students than adults smoke e-cigarettes [2]. Of great concern, only one in three teens who vape know that e-cigarettes have nicotine. [3] In fact, one of the most common reasons teens say they vape is the flavors. [3] There is an increased presence of e-cigarette companies on social media – most notably, by JUUL. This has led to some researchers to suggest that higher youth vaping rates are, at least in part, attributable to social media branding and marketing [8, 9]. Although e-cigarette companies strongly deny targeting teens in their marketing practices [4], there has been a … [Read more...]

4 ways smartphone technology can improve health for teens

It probably won’t surprise you to learn that most youth in America today are connected to technology. The Pew Research Center reports that, as of 2018, almost all teens (95%) have access to a smartphone [1]. Not only are smartphones owned by young people across income and racial/ethnic lines, they are changing the way that many teens go online. [1] Many of us have at least heard of, if not tried, health and fitness apps that help you track the food you’re eating in a daily “food journal,” view specialized workout plans, and offer countless more features and services. Even Apple’s iPhones and Samsung’s Galaxy phones have health apps that help the user track their steps each day. Here’s are 4 more ways that smartphones are contributing to a healthier generation of youth and teens: 1.   … [Read more...]

Social Media Movements for Youth to Prevent and Call Out Sexual Violence

With the help of Twitter and various other social media platforms, the #MeToo movement continues to shape and grow the global conversation around sexual violence [1]. While incredibly important and a much-needed shift in the way people think about what acceptable behavior looks like, the movement tends to focus on adult experiences. We forget that teens also experience sexual harassment and other types of sexual violence [3; 4]. In fact, research from our national Growing up with Media study and other similar studies, suggests that sexually violent behaviors often first appear in adolescence. Teens need to be included in this #MeToo movement as well. Here’s a quick look at some campaigns, movements, and organizations focused on youth and committed to using social media awareness as sexual … [Read more...]

Infographic: Teen Substance Use & Media

If you could peek into the late night Snapchats teens send to each other, memes they tag each other in, or Instagram stories they post, all of their references to drinking and smoking may give you the impression that teen substance use is on the rise. National data suggest the opposite however: overall, teen drinking, smoking, and drug use has declined in the past couple decades [6]. For example, in 1997, over 65% of 10th graders in the U.S. reported drinking alcohol at least once in the past year, and in 2017, that rate dropped to under 40% of 10th graders [6]. Those teens who are drinking are doing so less frequently: daily alcohol consumption in 10th graders dropped significantly in the last 5 years [6]. While there is reason to feel good about how our kids are doing today compared … [Read more...]

The Power of Supportive Environments for LGBT+ Youth

The teenage years can be a mixed bag, filled with high highs (think, that moment when you learn that your crush likes you back) and low lows (remember that feeling when you find out you’re the subject of some harsh gossip…). This is true whether you’re gay, straight, or somewhere in between. For youth who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and other sexual and gender identities (LGBT+) however, discrimination, stigma, and other stressful experiences can sometimes increase the number of lows and reduce the number of highs [1]. This is not a predetermined destiny for LGBT+ youth. Indeed, there are many things we can do to help turn the tables and support youth to live happy and healthy lives. At a basic level, this means creating safer spaces for LGBT+ youth at home, at school, and … [Read more...]

Digital Abuse in Relationships: What You Need to Know

Digital connectivity can be a powerful and positive tool for increased communication and intimacy between romantic partners. However, when one partner resorts to digital means to hurt the other, it can have harmful consequences. To better understand how, and how often, digital technology is used by domestic abusers to victimize their partners, we teamed up with the Data & Society research institute and talked to over 3,000 Americans ages 16 and older about their experiences. Here’s what we learned: What does digital domestic abuse look like? Digital domestic abuse experiences span the relatively benign—albeit likely irritating—to the possibly damaging, and include: revenge porn, sexually harassing a partner online, controlling a partner’s social media accounts (e.g., demanding social … [Read more...]

4 Ways Tech Can Help Improve your Health this Spring

We live in a digital world. This reality comes with both benefits and potential drawbacks. On the one hand, we love our access to endless information and entertainment. On the other, we may worry that we’re spending too much time looking at a screen. We may feel guilty when we spend several hours surfing the web, or when we hit ‘watch next episode’ on Netflix for the fourth (or fifth) time in a row... We also shame big technology users: People who play video games are depicted as zombies. We say, “Go outside! Get your eyes off your phone and do something active! Step away from the computer and improve your health!” But do these two areas of our lives, health and tech, have to be mutually exclusive? Say it with me: “NO!” Internet and cell phone-based health programs give us a … [Read more...]