Adolescents, in general, are spending more time in online environments, and understanding how youth navigate these contexts may be particularly important for addressing and improving outcomes among sexual and gender minority youth. Taking a developmental perspective, this review discusses online environments as contexts of both risk and resilience for youth in gender and sexual minority communities. In particular, we review literature highlighting how online environments provide a context for many salient aspects of adolescent development, including the promotion of identity development and the exploration of intimate, romantic and sexual behavior. The potential for online environments to serve as contexts for discrimination and victimization for gender and sexual minority youth are also discussed. Specific recommendations for parents, teachers and sexual and gender minority youth themselves are made for creating and promoting positive wellbeing in online spaces.
Key Take Away Points
-Sexual and gender minority youth, like all youth, are spending increasing amounts of time online
-Online environments provide important opportunities for identity exploration, relationship formation and information gathering
-Sexual and gender minority youth may be particularly likely to explore sexual behavior online
-Online environments can also harbor risks in terms of cyber victimization and unwanted solicitation (i.e., online predation)
-Parents, teachers, and youth play an important role in helping adolescents to navigate online environments
Alexa Martin-Storey is an associate professor at the Université de Sherbrooke in the department of psychoéducation. She is the Tier II Canada Research Chair in Stigma and Psychosocial Development, and her work focuses on understanding how stigma shapes adolescent mental health and wellbeing. Alicia Lapointe is currently a Research Scientist at the Center for School Mental Health at Western University, with work that focuses on educative and activist function of Gender and Sexuality Alliances (GSA) in publicly-funded Ontario Catholic and secular high schools. Alice Girouard is a doctoral student in psychology at the Université de Montréal. Her work focuses on childhood maltreatment, sexual well-being and sexual and gender diversity. Marie-Michèle Paquette is a doctoral student in psychology at the Université de Montréal and her work focuses on subjective sexuality, sexting, and sexual wellbeing. Sophie Bergeron is a full professor in the psychology department of the Université de Montréal and is the Tier I Canada Research Chair in Intimate Relationships and Sexual Wellbeing. Her work focuses on the psychosocial risk and proactive factors associated with individual and couple sexual wellbeing
We wish to acknowledge the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada for the research chairs to the first and last author which made this work possible. We also wish to acknowledge both CRIPCAS (Centre de recherche interdisciplinaire sur les problèmes conjugaux et les agressions sexuelles), as well as PREVNet (Promoting Relationship & Eliminating Violence Network) in supporting this project.
Martin-Storey, Alexa; Lapointe, Alicia A.; Girouard, Alice; Paquette, Marie-Michèle; and Bergeron, Sophie
"The online environments of sexual and gender minority youth: Contexts of risk and resilience,"
Journal of Family Strengths: Vol. 21:
1, Article 7.
Available at: https://digitalcommons.library.tmc.edu/jfs/vol21/iss1/7