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Connecting Without Fear: Clinical Implications of the Consumption of Information and Communication Technologies by Sexual Minority Youth and Young Adults

Abstract

Adolescents are coming of age in a rapidly changing media landscape with the increased integration of online information and communication technologies (ICTs) (e.g., internet, social media, photo/video sharing) into contemporary society. Sexual minority youth and young adults (SMYYA) may be particularly avid users of both offline and online ICTs. Despite the presence of considerable risk factors (e.g., cyber bullying, exploitation, overuse and addiction), ICTs may simultaneously provide substantial benefits for SMYYA, who often experience disproportionate social exclusion and victimization in their homes, schools and communities as a direct result of their sexual minority status. This grounded theory investigation used semi-structured interviews to consider the types of ICTs utilized by a sample (n = 19) of urban SMYYA (ages 18–22), and examined the importance ascribed by participants to their use of these technologies. Participants were selected for their active use of multiple types of ICTs, and considered their engagement with technology to be a critical feature of their daily lives and development. In contrast to their offline existence, online ICTs offered SMYYA significantly safer spaces and vital community support. Many of the participants also indicated the potential of ICTs to enhance face-to-face clinical work to foster SMYYA’s healthy growth and facilitate their connectedness. Specific implications for practice with SMYYA, including strategies to develop knowledge about ICTs, educate youth about the risks and opportunities online, and integrate ICTs into supportive therapeutic settings are described.

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Acknowledgments

To the amazing youth participants who generously provided their time and insight. This study was funded by a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada Insight Grant (#491406).

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Correspondence to Shelley L. Craig.

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Craig, S.L., McInroy, L.B., McCready, L.T. et al. Connecting Without Fear: Clinical Implications of the Consumption of Information and Communication Technologies by Sexual Minority Youth and Young Adults. Clin Soc Work J 43, 159–168 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10615-014-0505-2

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10615-014-0505-2

Keywords

  • Sexual minority youth
  • Social media
  • Gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender youth
  • Information and communication technology