New York magazine's provocative cover story, "Porn and Junior-High Culture" highlights the technologically enhanced exposure of young kids to online pornography. MTV's new series Skins is raising eyebrows about its depiction of underage and teenage actors baring bodies. So I began to wonder about the availability of quality sex education for kids, teens and young adults online.
According to a 16 year old quoted in the New York magazine article:
"You can learn a lot of things about sex. You don't have to use, like your parents sitting down with you and telling you. The Internet's where kids learn it from, most of the time."So how good is the information out there on the web? I wondered if anyone had ever looked to see what kind of information is available? Along comes a 2010 article in the Journal of Adolescent Health which reviews 177 sexual health websites for quality and accuracy.
Each site was judged based on 15 quality criteria including authors' credentials and affiliations, sources and references, clear dating, disclosure of ownership, clear editorial policies, copyright notices, and internal search engines. Websites were further reviewed for false and inaccurate information. Surprisingly, only 17% of sites had one or more inaccuracies but site quality was not correlated with accuracy. And domain extensions (.com, .gov, .edu, .org) did not seem to affect either the quality of the website or the level of inaccuracies. However, "web sites containing the most technically complex information (contraception, sexually transmitted infections) and controversial topics (abortion, penis size, emergency contraception) contained the most inaccuracies." In other words a site can look legit but have inaccuracies and errors.
The authors pose the question "...what can we do to aid young people in finding quality OSHI (online sexual health information)?" Like all other issues related to nearly infinite web resources, parents, teachers, health care workers and those who care about our kids need to step in and begin to figure out how to endorse and then disseminate quality, accurate, readable and age-appropriate information that is "sexy" enough that kids will get their learning from trusted sources rather than the entertainment industry. Anyone up for creating one with me?