Eighty-seven percent of U.S. teens aged 12-17 use the internet. When some people think of young people and the internet, a tiny shiver creeps up their spine as they instinctively imagine the dangers and perils awaiting them in cyberspace. Adult’s preoccupation with online predators and porn makes them oblivious to what teens and tweens (youth between 8 and 12 years old) are really up to online. Besides, three out of four young people surf the web from public areas in their home, so they can’t be getting into too much trouble. So what are young people really up to online? Well lots of things. They use the internet as a creative outlet, to maintain already existing friendships, to keep in contact with friends that have moved away, and to gather information that is otherwise unavailable.
With the demise of art and music programs in schools across the country, it’s no wonder young people are flocking to the internet to express themselves in every venue possible from blogging about their daily lives to sharing their art. Fifty seven percent of online teens (that’s about 12 million!) create original content for the internet such as artwork, photos, stories, or videos online or remix content found online into a new creation; hence the popularity of user driven content sites like YouTube. The internet offers an environment without limits or restrictions on creativity or content and lets teens link up with others that share their same outlet.
Instant Messaging (IM) has reshaped how young people communicate. Seventy four percent of online teens use IM. Some folks might think that all the time spent chatting online would negatively effect ones offline social life; quite the contrary! IM has not replaced face to face conversation but has actually enhanced it by allowing teens to talk about topics or express themselves in a ways that may be difficult in person. The impersonal environment of IM breaks down communication barriers, making it possible for young people to discuss everything from gossip and school projects to the “where is this relationship going” talk. IM also lets them have multiple, simultaneous conversations with their core group of friends, friends that have moved away and even their parents.
For young people the internet has replaced libraries and traditional information sources as the premier hub for accessing what you need to know. Today’s young people like to be informed about any and everything with 76% of them getting their news online, while 31% (about 6 million) go to the internet for health information.
Sex::Tech will offer ways to put health professionals in touch with what the next generation needs and wants.