How big tech is changing kids’ trance

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“A brief transition story… I introduced gender identity on Tumblr when I was fifteen and started calling myself non-binary.” So writes the 23-year-old American Helena Kirchner in a heart-wrenching description in her autobiographical study, “By Any Name.” In her testimony, Helena’s exploration of gender transition harkens back to her teenage years with Tumblr’s pastel-colored icons of waifish androgyny. Her time spent on these blogs began to distort her self-awareness. Eventually her “friends” took her to fantasy entertainment where she blamed her teenage angst for being born in the wrong body.

Helena’s story is not unusual. Other gender ideologues like Keira Bell and Grace Lidinsky-Smith have been exposed online. Today, research shows that the majority of those who make the transition have been persuaded to do so online through social media, blogs and YouTube.

The increase in teenagers using social media and identifying as transgender is also no coincidence.

Today’s teenagers only know the digital world. New media—smartphones, social media, and the Internet have consumed their waking hours. The ubiquity of this type of technology means that teenagers spend their lives behind screens instead of hanging out with friends, going out, or getting their driver’s license. On average, teenagers spend about nine hours plugged in each day.

>>> Left’s goal to create a “new generation of drag kids.”

Behind these screens, sexual and transgender content fills the digital spaces most teens use. A simple hashtag search will instantly load thousands of LGBTQ posts on your chosen social media platform. For example, on Wattpad, a new social media platform, one search found more than 4.5 million original story uploads. Or consider TikTok. A search for “high surgery” loads countless clips of young women showing off their pierced breasts with millions of views.

None of this happens by chance. Digital spaces are increasingly designed to promote sexual and transgender content. For years, Tumblr allowed adult content onto its servers before changing its policies. Others, such as Twitter, continue to allow pornography on their platforms. Regarding transgender content, TikTok updated its community guidelines this year so that “anti-LGBTQ+ content” is no longer allowed. More recently, Twitter, which has long censored dissent, is giving a platform to those who say transgender activism is “decorating.”

Some platforms are designed to hide the activities of young people from the prying eyes of their parents. Some online LGBTQ sites, such as Q chat space and LGBT Hotline chatrooms, allow young people to easily chat with LGBTQ strangers. If that’s not bad enough, these sites have a “quick escape” button that hides the chat.

Given the high speed of teenage technology use and the ideologically stimulating design of digital spaces, it’s no surprise that more Gen Z’ers identify as trans than older generations.

That’s what radical gender activists want. They have been advocating that access to pornography online is important for the “queer ecosystem” and for LGBTQ youth to “find themselves.” That’s why the Human Rights Campaign insists that teenagers have access to online spaces where they can “learn more” about their sexuality. That’s why another LGBT activist group, GLAAD, is pressuring social media platforms to adopt policies that protect trans content. And as for parents, activists argue that restricting parental transgender and sexual content online is “behavior rejection.”

Ultimately, activists assert that ensuring minors have access to transgender content online is critical to the mental health of “LGBT” youth. But nothing could be further from the truth.

Increased use of social media and exposure to sexual content harms adolescent mental health. A few recent studies have shown that the more time teenagers spend behind screens or scrolling through social networks, the more anxious they are and the less satisfied they are with their lives. Other studies have shown that early exposure to sexual content is associated with better mental health and life satisfaction. According to an internal Instagram study, 6 percent of teenage Instagram users struggling with suicidal thoughts have turned the platform back on.

Worse, promoting and maintaining content that promotes gender transition can cause irreversible damage. The chemical and surgical interventions used for gender reassignment cause health problems such as cardiovascular disease, decreased bone strength and ultimately sterilization. They don’t improve long-term mental health: People who undergo surgery are 19 times more likely to commit suicide than their peers, and in states where minors have easy access to these interventions, teen suicide rates are higher.

>>> Confusion of tech and trans

Decisions about what young people need to hear or see should not be made by Big Tech workers in Silicon Valley. Instead, parents, with the help of policymakers, should be empowered to care for and protect their children online.

Parents should consider steps they can take to protect children online. For example, you can encourage children to stay off social media until they are older, encourage only public Internet access, and use filters.

Legislators can also help. Raising the minimum age for Internet use (as the Child Online Privacy and Protection Act does) may be one way to protect children from online harm. Another step in the right direction is to prohibit the sexual exploitation of minors and the promotion of content that endangers the physical and mental health of minors (as the Children’s Online Safety Act does). If we want to protect children online, we must protect them from the harms of sexual and transgender content.

Given the dynamic nature of digital spaces, children need protection online now more than ever. Lawmakers and parents both need to step up.



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