Tech Resources That Help Kids Navigate Puberty

“I remember the first time I shaved my legs, I didn’t even tell my mom,” says Bortner. “I said, ‘Mom, look what I did.’ She said, ‘Oh, I hope you did it the right way.’

Bortner, now an intern at Oomla, said he doesn’t follow any specific channel. And she admitted that sometimes the information she found wasn’t legit, like the time she came across a couple of beauty YouTubers offering some sketchy advice.

“I remember seeing a video titled something like, ‘What to do for period pain relief,'” says Bortner. “They said you take a laptop when it’s really hot and you put it on the area… All the comments were like, ‘Why are you telling people to do this?'”

While Bortner was smart enough to recognize bad advice when he saw it, others may not be. Puberty starts earlier and lasts longer, beginning at eight or nine years of age. Therefore, young children are likely to scan the same topics that were previously considered adolescent topics.

Parents naturally worry about what their children will find.

“There’s a huge, not unwarranted, fear that kids will end up on porn sites when they start doing information searches,” says Natterson. “Many do, so it’s not an unreasonable concern. So how do you navigate it?”

Natterson explains that it starts with being the trusted adult who can help the vet with information and, again, keep the conversation open.

Dr. Meredithe McNamara agrees. An assistant professor of pediatrics at Yale School of Medicine who specializes in adolescent medicine, McNamara suggests that adults watch content with teens.

“I would recommend that parents and guardians and loved ones and providers ask this young person what they have found and what they have read,” says McNamara. “I don’t believe in free access to social media. I think it should be an open conversation continuously. I think the approach is for the adult to be a little humble and “What can I learn from my young person who is going through this stage?” is huge.”

McNamara said some of her patients are drawn to YouTubers who explain concepts very well and others whose content is slightly different or potentially inaccurate. Even when correcting misinformation, McNamara always makes sure to thank her patients for teaching her the material and tell them she learned something that helps her understand them better.

“It really puts the young person in control of what’s most important to them, which is their body and their life,” she said.

Resources for trans and non-binary kids

McNamara co-authored, along with six other medical and legal experts, a report in May that criticized scientific claims used as justification for criminalizing medical treatment for transgender youth in Texas and Alabama. She has also co-authored several opinion pieces on the subject.

While the Internet can be tough, especially for marginalized groups, McNamara said she has found positives for the gender-diverse community.

“There’s so much interesting data that shows that social media is very protective and supportive of gender-diverse young people, that they find each other and that they develop really supportive and constructive friendships, that they reach out to each other when they might not . be raised in supportive homes,” says McNamara.

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