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Opinion | Return of the summer bucket list
Opinion | Return of the summer bucket list
By Delaney Rauscher Adams, Staff Columnist • May 28, 2024
Opinion | Do not arrest peaceful protesters
By Livia LaMarca, Assistant Opinions Editor • May 23, 2024

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Opinion | Return of the summer bucket list
Opinion | Return of the summer bucket list
By Delaney Rauscher Adams, Staff Columnist • May 28, 2024
Opinion | Do not arrest peaceful protesters
By Livia LaMarca, Assistant Opinions Editor • May 23, 2024

Opinion | Social media affects our views on sex in both positive, negative ways — especially for adolescents

Opinion+%7C+Social+media+affects+our+views+on+sex+in+both+positive%2C+negative+ways+%E2%80%94+especially+for+adolescents
Carrington Bryan | Staff Illustrator

Naturally, as you’re growing up and experiencing puberty and your body starts changing, you start to like people and understand the idea of sex, sexual encounters and pleasure. However, as social media has escalated and kids are joining social media sites at younger and younger ages, it’s worth considering what type of content they are seeing online. 

Social media has affected sex in both positive and negative ways. There is less stigma, and there are fewer negative views surrounding sex, especially in terms of women’s pleasure. Social media presents a distinct opportunity to share information many individuals may not have access to otherwise, especially in terms of sexual health. Easy access to sexual health education fosters a more sex-positive world. 

Social media gives professionals or those knowledgeable about becoming sexually active a platform to reach anyone, no matter where they are. This opportunity allows their audience to consume destigmatized information about sex, relationships and even mental health, which plays a large role in sex and sexual relationships.

Seeing destigmatized information about what sex is, why sex is good for you and how it’s not something to hush about is particularly beneficial for women. Women are told that sex is not supposed to be pleasurable for us — that we only have sex to have children — which is completely inaccurate. Women can and should enjoy sex just as much as men can. 

Presenting destigmatized information and talking about sex helps adolescents and young adults learn about important information such as safety measures, consent, birth control and other aspects that may not always be taught in schools. More than half of America’s public schools lack comprehensive sexual health education, so it makes sense that adolescents and young adults go online to try to figure out everything that encapsulates sex and sexual education. 

Federally, the United States does not mandate sexual health education, meaning that schools that do teach it are not required to follow any type of standard or medically accurate curriculum. Currently, 15 states do not require any sexual health education, and many others only teach abstinence. 

Although social media is not always the best resource for sexual information, there is growing research suggesting benefits for youth going on social media to look for answers their school curriculums cannot provide them. Young individuals on X, formerly known as Twitter, report a greater knowledge around condom use, HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases and sexual risk factors. 

Obstetricians and gynecologists use TikTok to reach adolescents and provide them with medically accurate sexual information. Popular among younger generations, TikTok allows users to create inclusive and accessible content, especially for marginalized populations such as LGBTQ+ youth who struggle to find community and support. 

With any information you see on social media, there is always the potential for misinformation, misconceptions or incorrect knowledge to spread. This occurs particularly often on TikTok, as the platform has relaxed community guidelines and terms of service policies, and rarely fact-checks its most viral videos. 

I do see many benefits between sex and social media, but isn’t there a place where we should draw a line?

Social media gives potential sexual predators anonymity online. Many of them may capitalize on the idea of online secrecy and use this to send unsolicited, pornographic content or “sexts” to vulnerable populations — in most instances, minors. This creates an almost perfect environment for sexual exploitation and grooming. There are a host of predators online targeting young adolescents and sexualizing them. 

I know what you may be thinking — why would these videos be on a child’s feed? When scrolling on TikTok or Instagram, you can’t always control what pops up on your feed. Many people, including myself, have random videos appear on their feed of individuals talking about sex or sexual positions that disturb me, at 21 years old, and I cannot fathom an adolescent seeing these types of videos. 

Among adolescents, social media encourages risky sexual behavior they may not fully understand yet and exposes them to explicit sexual media too early, which is harmful for them now and later on in life. Social media has the potential to perpetuate harmful and inaccurate information, creating an idea of sex that is neither truthful nor accurate.

Porn-like versions of what sex is do not reflect reality. Porn is produced to entertain and manifest fantasies for viewers — it is not produced with accurate education in mind, nor does it resemble most individuals’ sexual experiences. Kinky, hard sex and sex portrayed in porn are continuously presented on social media platforms that acquaint adolescents with a distorted idea of sex that is horrendously incorrect. Adolescents are watching porn without any personal experience with sex, creating toxic ideals about sex and not teaching them about healthy and safe sex. 

Social media has continued to evolve since I was introduced to it during its beginning stages in elementary school. Though I use social media quite frequently and can appreciate its positive aspects — providing information and education, connecting people and so on — there are still too many negative aspects to just sweep under the rug, especially when discussing adolescents’ persistent use of social media. They consume content every day that may not be appropriate for them to see at young ages and could harm them one day later in life.

Social media sites need to ensure there are more controls to blocking mature content on apps that were not made for adolescents to take part in. Social media owners and developers should ensure a better system to determine who is younger than 16 or 18 and ensure that their algorithms are not showing them harmful videos at an inappropriate age. We must make sure that these apps have ways of controlling the content that appears on adolescents’ feeds so that they are not exposed to sexually explicit content too early in their lives.

Emily O’Neil writes primarily about societal issues, politics and campus life. Write to her at [email protected].

About the Contributor
Emily O'Neil, Senior Staff Columnist
Emily O’Neil is a Political Science and Public Service major and earning a certificate in Public and Professional Writing. She is from Lancaster, PA and writes primarily about political and societal issues. Write to her at