5 Ways the Digital Age Has Changed Teenage Sexuality

Sexuality in the digital age
Westend61 / Brand X Pictures / Getty Images

The digital age has led to many new ways for teens to learn about and talk about sex. Many parental conversations about “the birds and the bees” haven’t quite caught up with technology yet. It's important to recognize how technology is changing the way teens view sex and sexuality.

1. Pornography is Easily Accessible

Gone are the days of having to wait until they're 18 to purchase pornography. Today’s teens don’t even need to “borrow” a video from an older sibling to catch a glimpse of pornography.

The internet is filled with graphic images that are easily accessible to minors.

A study published in Pediatrics reports that about 42% of 10 to 17-year-olds have been exposed to online pornography in the past year. While two-thirds of minors report unwanted exposure to pornography online, 38% of 16 and 17-year-old males report deliberately visiting pornographic sites.

Looking at graphic pornographic images can certainly influence the way teens begin to view sex and relationships. For example, many teens who view pornography report they don’t see any type of link between the need to have a relationship to go along with sexual activity.

2. The Internet Allows Predators Into Your Home

Predators have easy access to children via social media, online games, and chat rooms. Predators often spend weeks or months grooming their victims as they gain their trust.They may lure teens into sending sexually explicit photos or videos of themselves while parents may be only steps away in another room.

Approximately 13% of young internet users report receiving unwanted sexual solicitations. About 1 in 25 teens have received sexual solicitations from an adult attempting to meet with them in-person. Receiving regular solicitations and propositions may cause teens to think that it's normal or acceptable behavior.


3. Search Engines Answer Questions About Sex

The internet serves as an educational tool to teach teens about sex. Clearly, that’s not always a bad thing. Teens can turn to the internet to learn about contraception, sexually transmitted diseases, and to get answers to questions they may otherwise feel too embarrassed to ask.

The ability to conduct research, however, also means many teens may not be getting appropriate information. Forums, blogs, and unreliable sources may provide incorrect information that could influence a teen’s sexual choices.

Read More: Should You Monitor Your Teen's Online Activity?

4. Nude Photos are Exchanged Frequently

Sending provocative and nude photos or videos has become the norm in many teenage social circles. Approximately 54% of college students report that they sent sexually explicit text messages and images to other people before the age of 18.

Many young people don’t think about the potential ramifications of sharing sexually explicit material. They presume a current romantic partner would never share it with anyone else and they don’t consider the legal, emotional, or social consequences of sexting.

Read More: Think the Teenage Obsession with Selfies is Harmless? Think Again

5. Sexualized Content is Rampant

Today’s youth have been exposed to more graphic sexualized content than any other generation. And it’s not just the internet that is offering early sex education. Music videos, reality TV, video games, and advertisements all provide explicit sexual content. Even music lyrics have become much more sexually graphic over the years.

Frequent exposure to sexually suggestive material leads to increased sexualized behavior. Teen dances have certainly changed over the past decade or two as holding hands has been replaced with “twerking.” Clothing has become much more revealing and sexualized behavior has become normalized.

Read More: Should You Friend Your Teen on Facebook? 


Author (date). Title. Journal. Volume Page-page.

Wolak, J.,  Mitchell, K., Finkelhor, D. (2007). Unwanted and Wanted Exposure to Online Pornography in a National Sample of Youth Internet Users. Pediatrics. 119(2): 247-257.

DeAngelis, Tori. (2007) Web pornography’s effect on children. Monitor on Psychology. 38(10): 50.

Stohmaier, H., Murphy, M., DeMatteo, D. (2014) Youth Sexting: Prevalence Rates, Driving Motivations, and Deterrent Effect of Legal Consequences. Sexuality Research and Social Policy. 11(3) 245-255.

Continue Reading