Assessing Youth Perspectives on the Use of Technology Mediated Sexual Affordance in the Digital Age

Worksite Location
Cornell University, with onsite visits to CCE Tompkins County, New York City and other sites in New York
Faculty Sponsor
Janis Whitlock, Research Scientist, Bronfenbrenner Center for Translational Research
Other Campus-Based Mentors/Supervisors
Jane Powers, Senior Extension Associate
Field Mentors/Supervisors
Denyse Variano, Issue Leader, CCE Orange County; Anna Steinkraus, Community Educator, CCE Tompkins County; Jackie Davis-Manigaulte, Senior Extension Associate
Stipend Amount
Project Summary and Intended Outcomes

This internship will contribute to a state-funded initiative (ACT for Youth) and to new research being conducted by Janis Whitlock, Jane Powers and Debbie Sellers at the Bronfenbrenner Center for Translational Research related to better understanding the impact of technology and digital media on the sexual development and health of adolescents. It builds on work completed by last year's CCE intern and the study activities completed this year. Given the ubiquity of technology in the lives of adolescents, surprisingly little is known about adolescent use of what we are calling “technology mediated sexuality” (TMS). By this, we mean information or interaction which takes place through Internet, tablet or mobile (e.g., smartphone) based applications, programs or websites. This could include, but is not limited to, use of pornography, sexting, or live personal sexual exchange – on- or offline.

Building on research conducted by our CCE intern last year, which examined adult perspectives and knowledge of TMS, this year’s project will focus on reaching adolescents. The student intern will conduct focus groups and key informant interviews with adolescents in CCE communities to obtain their perspectives on:

a) which TMS activities adolescents are engaged in;
b) perceived impact of TMS;
c) how parents and educators should communicate about TMS;
d) timing;
e) and format.

Given the relevance of the topic to student life and developmental stage as well as the opportunity to meaningfully engage with a variety of key stakeholders, we expect a high degree of both involvement and satisfaction for both the intern and study collaborators.

Roles and Responsibilities

The student would serve as a bridge between the Cornell-based scientific team and several New York State Cornell Cooperative Education offices with whom we have been collaborating (NYC, Orange and Tompkins Counties). The student intern would assist in building the CCE-Cornell research team collaboration by:

a) developing focus group and interview guides;
b) working with CUCE-NYC and CCE Tompkins County to set up logistics for focus groups and interviews;
c) assisting with development of the study infrastructure.

We anticipate that the intern would regularly communicate remotely with each of the participating communities and conduct 1-2 visits to each site over the course of the summer.

Qualifications and Previous Coursework

Must be a full-time CHE freshman, sophomore or junior. Graduating seniors are not eligible. Must meet NYS Department of Motor Vehicle requirement, if applicable.

The intern must have an interest in public health, human sexuality, community-based research and/or community outreach. The intern must be independent and highly motivated, with strong skills in interpersonal communication, written communication and time management. Student will ideally have some knowledge of adolescent health, experience conducting reviews of literature, and/ or writing of interview summaries.

Benefits and Skills

The intern will learn about the overarching topic of sexual health in the digital age and will become very familiar with the challenges (and hopefully opportunities) facing young people. S/he will also have the opportunity to gain or sharpen skills in understanding the nuances of university-community partnerships and will develop basic research skills of collecting, analyzing and managing data.