Health Information and Tools > Health A-Z >  Sexual Health: Teens, technology, and sexuality

Main Content

Sexual Health

Teens, technology, and sexuality

​​​How teens use technology

Teens use technology like texting, gaming, social networks, the internet, and online chats to:

  • connect
  • learn and do schoolwork
  • explore identity and interests
  • enjoy free time

For many, their online lives matter as much as their offline lives.

Benefits of being online

Technology can help teens:

  • practice communication skills
  • build and maintain relationships with peers
  • learn about trust and respect
  • create a sense of community

The benefits are more likely to happen when teens are allowed to practice being online and when trusted adults talk with them about the opportunities and the challenges.

Potential risks for teens

Sometimes technology use can lead to:

  • cyberbullying
  • inappropriate relationships
  • isolation
  • avoiding in-person interactions
  • accessing inappropriate materials
  • privacy breaches
  • misinformation
  • technology over-use problems

Teens with a good understanding how online media works (like knowing privacy settings) and skills to critically understand and create content are less likely to experience problems with technology use.

Sexuality and technology

Teens get messages about sexuality and relationships through technology every day. This includes messages about:

  • gender
  • sex
  • body image
  • sexual health
  • consent and relationships

Sometimes these messages are directly about sexuality, like in pornography or sexts. Other times, the messages are more subtle, like in video games, advertisements, or video clips.

Some of the ideas teens get from technology can support sexual health and encourage healthy decisions. Others may be negative, leading to harm or dangerous situations.


Sexting is sending sexual words, nude or semi-nude photos, or sexual videos through texts or instant messaging apps.

Some teens sext to explore sexuality, identity, and boundaries. It can be a way of showing sexual interest as they practice relationships and communication skills.

Most sexting is consensual and stays between sender and receiver. Sexting people they don't know is unhealthy and could be against the law.

Teens need to know that even though sexting can feel private and safe, when a message, photo, or video is sent to someone, there is no guarantee that it will stay private.


Some teens access pornography as they explore their sexuality. It's important they understand that pornography:

  • isn't real and that real sex does not feel like porn looks
  • is made to sell an idea of sex that may not be healthy
  • can sometimes lead to unhealthy ideas about body image and relationships
  • can change how the teen brain and body work together for sex

What to say and do

Talk to teens about privacy, technology, and safety, whether or not you think they sext or use pornography. The same rules for healthy communication in real life apply online. When you teach about communicating online, teach about trust, respect, privacy, and consent. Some healthy messages to share with teens are:

  • It's OK to be curious about sex.
  • It's OK to want to communicate in a flirting or sexual way with peers.
  • You're not in trouble.
  • Let's talk about safe and healthy ways to communicate.
  • How can you give and get consent about sexting?
  • It's important to check facts – not everything online is true.
  • Let's talk about what ideas or values are being promoted here.
  • There can be risks and benefits to using technology in sexual ways.

Setting limits about technology use can help teens use media in healthy ways and stay safe.

  • Monitor media use.
  • Be sure they keep personal information like family details private.
  • Encourage teens to take regular breaks from technology.

What if I need help?

Not everything online makes people feel good. Some media messages can be negative, like bullying, threats, homophobia, or racism.

Talk to your teen about cyberbullying and sexting. Tell them they can talk to you or another adult they trust if something they see or receive upsets them.

If you're worried about your teen's safety, contact your local emergency services.

To report online sexual abuse or exploitation of children, go to

If you are a child or teen looking for support any time, day or night, call Kids Help Phone at 1-800-668-6868. You can also call Health Link at 811 to talk to a registered nurse or to find programs or services near you.

Current as of: January 5, 2023

Author: Sexual & Reproductive Health, Alberta Health Services