Still, while it’s not surprising that adults believe today’s youth are navigating a brave new world, what is surprising is that the kids themselves—who’ve never known anything different—feel that way, too. They get that they are in a strange, uncharted place. “I think kids kind of mature more because they have computers,” Alexa tells me. “Sometimes it can be a good thing, and sometimes it can be a bad thing.” It’s a version of the idea I heard from every group—an awareness that, sexually speaking, the web may be doing them a disservice.
“I love you,” Tricey says, a bit wistfully. The boys she knows “won’t say that to your face. Like, they won’t have to worry about seeing your reaction when they type words into a computer. They don’t have to worry about seeing that.”
“Yeah,” Samantha agrees. “Because they’re just typing, so they’ll be like, ‘Okay, whatever, blah, blah, blah.’ They don’t even think about what they write.”
“Sometimes they do mean it,” Tricey says. “Sometimes they mean it, and sometimes they don’t mean it. But when they mean it, they’re scared to tell you to your face.”
She shrugs her shoulders, as if it doesn’t matter, though the look on her face says it does. “They’re not gonna show you any emotion,” she says finally, with a sigh. “They have to do that on the Internet.”