A Youth Perspective On TECHsex

You’ve heard the data, seen the findings, and read the full report (if you haven’t you need to download it now!). But, do you know what youth think about the findings in our TECHsex study? How they feel about online dating, social media, and finding health information online?

Today, we’re talking with Martevia Bledsoe, one of our Youth Advisory Board members. Martevia is a recent graduate from the University of Alabama at Birmingham with a Bachelor of Science in Public Health with a minor in Medical Sociology. Martevia is an activist for equitable health rights for minority populations and is currently a research assistant with the National Center for Children in Poverty (NCCP) with the Columbia Mailman School of Public Health in New York. She is currently working on research that examines the health disparities that affect low-income families from a lack of coverage from state and national policies that concern paid and unpaid family leave, pregnancy discrimination, and breastfeeding accommodations.

Martevia is relentlessly passionate about serving as a resource and empowering others to reach their highest potential. From her experience volunteering and coordinating large-scale service and community projects through numerous executive leadership positions, she stands firm in her belief that being the change that you want to see in the world and investing in those around her is what makes every moment worth it.

I spoke to Martevia about topics stemming from our TECHsex report: her social media usage, her opinion on Google’s credibility, and more. See her answers below:

ERIN: In our TECHsex report, we found that the most popular social media platforms for youth were Snapchat and Instagram. Does this match your social media usage? What sites do you use the most and why?

MARTEVIA: I actually do use Snapchat and Instagram the most. I have a Twitter and Facebook account, but I’m not on there as much. I think some of the reasons why youth are so involved in Instagram and Snapchat, including myself, is because there are so many features and they’re constantly updating the platforms. There are so many different ways you can reach your friends and family, which is why I think they’re the most popular.

ERIN: How much do you trust the health information you find on Google?

MARTEVIA: It’s kind of 50/50. I always laugh because my friends and I always joke around…whenever we have a cough and Google symptoms, we find out we have stage 4 cancer!

For me, it’s one of those things where you have to be able to discern the information you’re taking in and where you’re getting it from, as well as the credibility of the information that the search engines are feeding you. So for me, I take it with a grain of salt.  Doing a Google search is a way to touch base and get insight on what’s going on, but I mostly rely on doctors to figure out actual concrete information. There are some good websites out there where you could probably trust the information…You can definitely get leads to find whatever you’re looking for, but for me it’s 50/50 because sometimes you can be mislead and sometimes you find conflicting information.

ERIN: We found that when young people have questions about sexual health, they most often turn to Google. In some cases, participants knew of particular sites like Planned Parenthood or local youth organizations’ sites for sexual health information, but often they relied on Google to locate answers for them. Does this surprise you? Why do you think young people reach for their smartphones first, when they have a health question?

MARTEVIA: We kind of know that some of the things we find on Google and search engines are not verifiable, but for some reason when it’s in regards to anything related to sexual health or anything dealing with sex, people are more desperate for any kind of information that they can find, even though it may be kind of outlandish, because it’s insight for them.

There’s also a privacy component to it where you don’t have to talk to anyone about it. If you have a health problem, let’s say you have a sore throat,  you don’t mind going to your doctor and saying  “Hey, I’ve got a sore throat. What do I need to do?” versus going to your doctor and saying “Hey! Let’s talk about sex, let me figure out this, that, and the other.” So, I think a big part of it is the privacy component; for youth, it’s being able to have access to any information, even if it might not be the right information.

It honestly doesn’t surprise me that they would go to Google first, because who wants to have that talk as a youth? Especially with a lot of sex ed programs being so undeveloped, there’s no safe place to have that open conversation.

ERIN: What do you think is the biggest concern that young people have, that health providers are not listening to?

MARTEVIA: I think for one, it’s privacy. I think that’s kind of a slippery slope, because being a minor, you really don’t have that much say-so over certain choices you think you should be able to make because you are a minor, you are on your parent’s insurance. You can be 17 and you can be mature beyond your age but someone is going to think “Hey, you’re not old enough to make wise decisions.” I think that aspect of when you’re going to the doctor, you never know if what you’re talking about is really privatized. I think that’s a big problem for youth, too, because you never really know exactly what’s going to happen yet.

For instance, someone who wants to get on birth control can go and visit a doctor and hear all of the options, but if there’s no privacy you might be thinking “Oh, what if my parent’s find out?”, “How could my parents find out?” or “What if I don’t want them to find out?” That’s why I said it’s a slippery slope issue, because there’s only so much you can do. There’s a big push for more rights among youth, but there’s so much stigma around that too and you never know how people’s parents are. One person’s parents might be okay with birth control, one person’s parents may not, so how can you find the common ground between that?

Thinking in a youth-mindset, it would be privacy, because that’s one of the reasons why we see so many issues. Why youth go to Google- they don’t go to their doctor, they don’t go to their parents, they don’t go to their teachers because the concern is privacy.

ERIN: You spoke at our YTH Live 2017 opening plenary on the Youth Digital Landscape panel, about our TECHsex report and research findings. Can you tell me a little about your experience speaking at the conference?

MARTEVIA: My experience speaking at the YTH Live conference was probably one of the best speaking experiences I have ever had. Molly (Pilloton) was an excellent co-presenter and I loved how well we were able to collaborate to present the findings of the TECHsex study.

I think that it definitely helped that I was able to present on a study that was very interesting. The data was very succinct and it really gave a lot of insight to the next steps that we need to take to ensure that our youth are able to take control of their sexual health and become aware of what resources are available to them, to learn more about sexual health.

Erin: Thanks Martevia for sharing your perspective!



We hope this interview gives you insight into how youth are navigating health and technology- and we hope you’ll use the findings of our TECHsex report to open the conversation with them!

Want to know more about designing with youth? Chat with our program staff, Molly Pilloton, Program Officer of Youth Innovation and co-author of the national report TECHsex we just highlighted, and sign up for our newsletter for more youth-centered health design thinking and tips.


ZonaSegura ZonaSegura is a trauma-informed youth-centered innovative mobile solution to address teen dating violence in Honduras. Learn more about ZonaSegura on our program page.