Peers and romantic partners play a large part in sexual identity construction in the adolescent years and conversations with peers during high school often act as an important source of sex-related information.
The internet is beginning to also have a greater impact on teens when it comes to sexual identity construction and is now the most commonly used form of communication.
While teens, ages fifteen to seventeen, spend the majority of their time talking with friends, what is it that they’re talking about?
Gossip, the day at school, plans for the weekend…and sex.
Research shows that approximately 36% of males and 39% of females between the ages of fifteen and seventeen are sexually active in the United States (Subrahmanyam, Smahel and Greenfield, 2006).
The teenage years can be the most confusing and typically the most inquisitive years for identity development, particularly sexual identity development.
The use of instant messaging is primarily to communicate with friends one-on-one or for gossiping.
However, in chat rooms teens are communicating primarily with strangers and with one or more users.
Users gather information about one another by using codes such as asking “a/s/l” to determine another user’s age, sex and location or by using gendered nicknames.
With only knowing this information, users lack the knowledge about one another’s bodies and physical appearance, which could naturally make teens feel more comfortable communicating about sex online.
When examining the use of AOL instant messaging and teen chat rooms, psychology researchers found that on average teens were spending approximately a combined 321 minutes of after school and weekend time online.
Of that time, it was observed that 1 sexual comment was made every 4 minutes (Subrahmanyam, Smahel and Greenfield, 2006).
Think in terms of how much time teens are spending online, and how it weighs out with the sexual comments being made that often!