One emerging avenue for the exploration of adolescents' sexual orientation identity development is the Internet, since it allows for varying degrees of anonymity and exploration. The purpose of this phenomenological study was to examine the role of the Internet in facilitating the sexual orientation identity development process of gay and bisexual male adolescents. Qualitative interviews were conducted with an ethnically diverse sample of 63 gay/bisexual male adolescents (ages 15-23). Participants reported using a range of Internet applications as they explored and came to accept their sexual orientation identity, with the intended purpose and degree of anonymity desired determining which applications were used. Youth reported that the Internet provided a range of functions with regard to the exploration and acceptance of their sexual orientation identity, including (1) increasing self-awareness of sexual orientation identity, (2) learning about gay/bisexual community life, (3) communicating with other gay/bisexual people, (4) meeting other gay/bisexual people, (5) finding comfort and acceptance with sexual orientation, and (6) facilitating the coming out process. Future research and practice may explore the Internet as a platform for promoting the healthy development of gay and bisexual male adolescents by providing a developmentally and culturally appropriate venue for the exploration and subsequent commitment to an integrated sexual orientation identity.
Keywords: Internet; adolescent men; gay; qualitative research; sexual orientation identity.
© The Author(s) 2015.