The information highway has long been lauded for offering up a wealth of knowledge on practically everything, including that forbidden realm of anything sex-related. Eager to educate, a number of websites have been established by legitimate organizations and qualified individuals alike, all hopeful that the Internet will equip youth with any information needed in becoming sexually healthy adults.
Yet, qualitative research conducted by the U.S.-based Guttmacher Institute and United Nations Population Division indicates that, despite using the Internet daily, few teens see it as a main source of information about contraception and abstinence. Instead, young people reported being likelier to rely on -- and having greater trust in -- more "traditional" sexuality education resources, like their family members (typically parents), educators, medical professionals, and friends, in learning more about such topics.
Their reasoning: they were wary of sex-related information on the web, with reservations stemming from content often being user-generated, and therefore distrusted in possibly being incorrect. The likelihood of needing to sort through a great deal of sexually explicit material to find factual information further discouraged youth from seeking out knowledge. When sexual health information was accessed, it was typically done in response to a specific situation, like completing a class assignment, or to find the answer to a personal inquiry.
This latest research in educating people online is discouraging given previous studies have found that web users, in general, see the anonymity and openness offered by the Internet as attractive for finding answers to their questions. Other positive features are that a person can do so with minimal embarrassment and judgment when it comes to one's physical appearance, gender, age, or health status, especially if dealing with private, sensitive issues like sex. Users are further able to explore the information on their own, working at their own pace and without the fears that a more public setting for sexuality information may invite.
With researchers recommending that a youth's traditional sources show the way, we all need to know what sites deserve a hit. Some truly terrific, teen-friendly websites do exist in arming young people with sexuality and sexual and reproductive health information. So whether you're a youth's source of support or a young person looking for assistance, the following websites are excellent resources when it comes to getting youth-friendly information:
www.sexetc.org, www.scarleteen.com and www.birdsandbees.org.
Then be sure to spread the word so that more people can benefit from all of the valuable information these sites have to offer!
Follow Dr. Yvonne K. Fulbright on Twitter: www.twitter.com/YvonneFulbright